29 Dec 2023

Review: Migration

From Widescreen, 12:52 pm on 29 December 2023

This animated duck fantasy shouldn’t bore younger filmgoers, says Dan Slevin.

Still from the 2023 animated movie Migration.

Photo: Universal Pictures

Watching Migration with a group of boisterously engaged younger cinemagoers the other day, I thought about how important character design is in modern animation. Disney’s Wish – also in cinemas this summer – stays very true to their century-old house style. Fair enough, it’s the company’s centenary and you don’t make that much money for that long by being revolutionary.

Illumination – owned by mega-studio Universal but animated in Paris – takes a different tack. They start with character designs that are inherently alive and amusing even before they are animated. Films like the Despicable Me/Minions franchise, The Secret Life of Pets and Sing all have characters that look like they are ready to burst into life and, sure enough, thanks to the talent of the animators, they do.

(Not all Illumination films have free reign to create the look of their characters, The Super Mario Bros. Movie and the Dr. Seuss adaptations for example.)

Still from the 2023 animated film Migration.

Photo: Universal Pictures

But you only need to take one look at the family of ducks that are centre piece of the new Illumination entertainment Migration to know that they’d be a lot of fun to animate.

Which is good, because one look at the script might suggest otherwise …

Mack and Pam Mallard (voiced by Kumail Nanjani and Elizabeth Banks) are safely parenting their kids in New England but the arrival of a passing flock of migrating ducks opens the family up to the idea of a vacation in Jamaica.

Safety-first Mack is very against this idea but is eventually won around and somehow their first interaction with another species does not put them off the trip entirely and send them back home. Any viewer of the new Miyazaki film will know that herons are in-heron-tly* unreliable they are, but despite almost becoming heron-tucker they press on but find themselves trapped in New York City and at risk of being turned into duck à l'orange by a very grumpy chef.

(This idea of fowl parents saving their children from being eaten by humans is also the theme of the new Chicken Run movie on Netflix.)

Mike White (School of Rock and The White Lotus) is the credited screenwriter on Migration and I hope that he is getting a cut of every ticket sold because the cash might make up for all the groans he will hear from adults at every lame joke. Kids, however, will lap it up.

Migration is rated PG (Some scenes may scare very young children) and is in cinemas all over New Zealand.


*Yes, this entire review is just an excuse to use this dumb joke.

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