Film Review: Migration is a lively animated comedy that should resonate with your family this holiday season

Given that Migration, the latest animated offering from the Illumination collective (the production company behind such successes as Despicable Me and the inexplicable Minions), is penned by White Lotus creator Mike White, it makes sense that the film manages to make us care about its characters, rather than just be mildly amused at their comedic situation.

That being said, White hasn’t injected any dark satire into Benjamin Renner‘s lively family comedy – he did write The Emoji Movie and Pitch Perfect 3 after all – but his story sensibilities work in the favour of Migration‘s lead family, the Mallards, and the delightful, reliable voice cast that’s been assembled to bring them further to life.

Living in a New England pond, the Mallards live a simple, uneventful life, something the skittish patriarch, Mack (voiced by Kumail Nanjiani), prefers.  He’s a by-the-books type of duck, all too aware of how dangerous the outside world is, so he keeps his more adventurous wife, Pam (Elizabeth Banks), and their two children, Dax (Caspar Jennings) and Gwen (Tresi Gazal), tethered to a cautious existence.

Given the film’s title, it’s not much of a spoiler to know that eventually Mack loosens his grip – whether that be through pressure or suggestion, you decide – and agrees to a winter vacation in Jamaica, with the family learning the warm weather and glowing blue water make it a prime spot for their kind; and if the young female duck Dax struck up a conversation with early on in proceedings happens to be there too, well that’s just a coincidental bonus.

We all know such a trip won’t be executed with ease, so farcical setbacks naturally ensue, with the Mallards – joined by the curmudgeon-like Uncle Dan (Danny DeVito) – ultimately arriving in New York City where they find themselves constantly on the run (or should that be fly?) from a knife-happy celebrity chef who’s desperate to serve them on a literal silver platter; Carol Kane as a lightly demented heron, Awkwafina as the gruff leader of a pigeon gang, and Keegan-Michael Key as the aforementioned chef’s locked-away parrot, a slew of the voices met along the way.

As Migration arrives in theatres in, arguably, the busiest season, the notion of Mack wanting to avoid foreign crowds and remain safe in his own surroundings is, no doubt, a sense that many families will resonate with.  And whilst multiplexes aren’t always appealing come Boxing Day, I can attest that leaving your house as a collective unit for something like Migration will feel worth the while.  By no means is the film breaking any new ground, but its lush visual animation, slick running time (it clocks in at a neat 92 minutes) and bouncy voice cast make for an effortless watch, bringing back to mind how enjoyable a communal movie experience can be with your own flock.

A further reminder of how joyous animation can be, and that so often the simplest form of storytelling can prove mighty effective, Migration manages to create something meaningful out of its schematic narrative.


Migration is screening in Australian theatres from Boxing Day, December 26th, 2023.

Peter Gray

Seasoned film critic. Gives a great interview. Penchant for horror. Unashamed fan of Michelle Pfeiffer and Jason Momoa.