3.5 out of 5 stars

The road movie. Done to death a million times over—with family vacations (National Lampoon’s Vacation), fake families (We’re the Millers), coming-of-age sagas (Stand By Me), fantasy epics (The Lord of the Rings), even descents into madness (Aguirre, the Wrath of God)—the central idea’s always the same: a ragtag bunch hits the road, emerging better for it. A winning formula, sure, but new road movies face stiff competition from their predecessors. They need to stand out. A killer cast, breathtaking locations, or a clever twist can do the trick. Migration throws in a curveball: a family of quirky ducks. Not the biggest shake-up, but animation powerhouse Illumination has a knack for making anything work (even singing pigs). So, do these waterfowl fly high or just flutter about?

Mack (Kumail Nanjiani) is a nervous duck. He’s lived in one pond all his life, never questioning it. Why fix what ain’t broke, after all? But when a flock of ducks en route to Jamaica stops by, they invite Mack’s family along. Enticed by the joy of travel and Caribbean dreams, his wife Pam (Elizabeth Banks) and kids (Tresi Gazal, Caspar Jennings) are soon itching for their first migration. Eventually, even Mack gives in. Yet, flying south for the winter isn’t as easy as it sounds. Along the way, they get lost in the big city, enrage a vindictive chef, and even befriend an assortment of oddballs. But what’s a road trip without a few bumps along the way?

What’s most fun about Migration is that, unlike a generic, one-note hero’s journey storyline, it gleefully subverts expectations with offbeat characters and lighthearted humour, keeping the audience on its toes as the story unfolds organically, mimicking the unexpected twists and turns of a spontaneous road trip. While Mack’s initial trepidation quickly gives way to moments of heroism, like defeating an angry chef, dancing out of danger, and even rescuing a Scarlet macaw (Keegan-Michael Key), the film also explores his evolving relationship with his wilful son, Dax, and other thematic threads that enrich the narrative tapestry.

Similarly, the kooky characters never overstay their welcome. First, Carol Kane swoops in as a haunting heron, adding a touch of mystery. Then, Awkwafina (Renfield) chirps in as a New York pigeon, bringing a dose of city grit, before David Mitchell waddles in as a yogi goose. The kooky characters flit in and out like fleeting road trip companions, each delivering a quick burst of laughter before soaring onward.

What makes Migration truly shine is its fluid, bouncy tone. While not a blockbuster or even a standout from Illumination’s usual offerings, this 83-minute romp manages to pack in a lot of fun. As always, Illumination’s animation is superb, delivering grand set pieces like soaring through foggy New York skyscrapers, a tense restaurant infiltration, and a daring helicopter rescue. Yet, amidst the thrills, they also carve out space for gentle relaxation. In essence, Migration offers exactly what you crave from a summer family film: short, silly, and sweetly satisfying.

Nanjiani also hasn’t been cast solely because of his great, unique voice (with a little Daffy Duck in there), as he holds the picture from start to finish. He does such a good job it’s a surprise he hasn’t led an animated feature before! Aside from Nanjiani, Elizabeth Banks, Caspar Jennings, and Danny DeVito deliver strong supporting performances, but the closest contender is Tresi Gazal as Mack’s daughter Gwen. Too often a child character is voiced by an adult actor and sounds a little off. It’s an understandable problem, since a good child actor is hard to find, but in her feature debut she’s funny and sweet.

In cinemas, the animated short Mooned plays beforehand to pad out Migration‘s light runtime. This silly epilogue to the first Despicable Me (2010) tells us what villain Vector got up to after he’s stranded on the moon. It’s a lighthearted blend of slapstick humour and visual gags, perfectly fitting Migration’s playful tone. Minions fans will delight in their usual antics, making it a fun bonus for younger viewers.

So, is Migration a high-flying adventure? Not quite, but as a road movie, it’ll carve out its own spot as a fun pick for family movie night. Facing stiff competition from Illumination’s other hits like The Lorax (2012), Minions (2015), and Sing (2016), it nonetheless manages to succeed with its own down-to-earth adventure, delivered with the signature bubbly tone Illumination is known for.


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Cast & Crew

directors: Benjamin Renner & Guylo Homsy.
writers: Mike White & Benjamin Renner (story by Mike White & Benjamin Renner).
voices: Kumail Nanjiani, Elizabeth Banks, Caspar Jennings, Awkwafina, Tresi Gazal & Danny DeVito.