Review: ‘Migration’ (2023), starring the voices of Kumail Nanjiani, Elizabeth Banks, Keegan-Michael Key, Awkwafina and Danny DeVito

December 20, 2023

by Carla Hay

Uncle Dan (voiced by Danny DeVito), Gwen (voiced by Tresi Gazal), Dax (voiced by Caspar Jennings), Pam (voiced by Elizabeth Banks) and Mack (voiced by Kumail Nanjiani) in “Migration” (Image courtesy of Illumination Entertainment and Universal Studios)

“Migration” (2023)

Directed by Benjamin Renner; co-directed by Guylo Homsy

Culture Representation: Taking place in the United States and the Caribbean, the animated film “Migration” features a cast of characters portraying different types of birds.

Culture Clash: A family of five mallards (wild ducks) travel outside their home for the first time to go on a vacation in Jamaica, and they encounter various obstacles along the way. 

Culture Audience: “Migration” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching an entertaining, family-oriented animated film.

Gwen (voiced by Tresi Gazal), Dax (voiced by Caspar Jennings), Pam (voiced by Elizabeth Banks), Delroy (voiced by Keegan-Michael Key), Mack (voiced by Kumail Nanjiani) and Uncle Dan (voiced by Danny DeVito) in “Migration” (Image courtesy of Illumination Entertainment and Universal Studios)

Elevated by a stellar voice cast, “Migration” is an amusing and crowd-pleasing animated adventure with memorable characters. The movie offers a positive message about being open-minded enough to go outside comfort zones and experience new things. The story is easy to understand and has appeal for many generations of people.

Directed by Benjamin Renner and co-directed by Guylo Homsy, “Migration” was written by Mike White, the Emmy-winning creator of HBO’s “The White Lotus.” There’s some expected formula to the plot of “Migration,” but the dialogue between the characters is an entertaining delight. “Migration” also has some vibrant visuals that showcase birds on a thrilling aerial journey, as well as the beautiful locations that are visited along the way.

“Migration” begins by introducing the family of mallards (wild ducks) that live somewhere in New England go on this life-changing journey. The family patriarch is Mack Mallard (voiced by Kumail Nanjiani) and the family matriarch is Pam Mallard (voiced by Elizabeth Banks), who are parents of Dax (voiced by Caspar Jennings) and Gwen (voiced by Tresi Gazal). If Dax and Gwen were human, Dax would be about 12 or 13 years old, while Gwen would be about 8 or 9 years old.

The movie’s opening scene shows how Mack and Pam have different personalities and outlooks on life, which are reflected in their parenting styles. Mack teaches his children to be fearful of the unknown, while Pam encourages her children to be curious of the unknown. Mack is shown telling Dax and Gwen a story about duck children who went somewhere they weren’t supposed to go and ended up getting killed. Pam contradicts Mack assures her kids that no one was killed and the story really had a happy ending.

The Mallard family soon meets a lost duck (voiced by Jimmy Donaldson) in local duck habitat called Moosehead Pond. This duck tells the family that he and his flock are making their annual migration south to warmer weather during this winter season. The duck invites the family to migrate too.

Mack is immediately against the idea, because he and his family have never migrated before. After some back-and-forth debate and pleading from the kids, Pam convinces Mack to change his mind, and they decide to go to Jamaica. Joining them on the trip is Mack’s somewhat cranky bachelor Uncle Dan (voiced by Danny DeVito), who shares Mack’s tendency to be afraid of taking risks in life.

Along the way, the Mallards go to New York City, where they meet a group of scrappy pigeons, led by tough-talking fighter named Chump (voiced by Awkwafina), who immediately clashes with Mack. The Mallards also meet a rare Jamaican parrot named Delroy (voiced by Keegan-Michael Key), who has a sincere personality and is beng held captive in a cage by a restaurant chef (voiced by Boris Rehlinger) in the restaurant’s kitchen.

The Mallards help Delroy escape. As a thank you, he offers to show them the way to Jamaica. (This isn’t spoiler information, since Delroy is shown in the movie’s trailers.) The Mallards also spend time at a paradise-like duck farm led by the guru-like Goo Goo (voiced by David Mitchell), which might or might not be the safe haven that it appears to be.

“Migration” has the benefit of very good writing as the foundation for making this movie as engaging as it is. Many animated films make the characters too generic, but each of the principal and supporting characters has a distinctive personality that won’t get confused with any other characters. The character of Uncle Dan is a little underdeveloped though. The movie isn’t overstuffed with too many characters or subplots. “Migration” is ultimately a journey worth taking for anyone who wants to see a well-made animated film.

Universal Pictures will release “Migration” in U.S. cinemas on December 22, 2023.

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