Migration (dir. Benjamin Renner)

By: Adam Freed

In what has become a disturbing trend of late, Illumination Studios has again released an animated family film that hovers between rote and uninspired. The latest offering, Benjamin Renner’s Migration is the feather-light tale of a mallard family burdened by the anxieties of family patriarch Mack (Kumail Nanjiani).  Although Mack finds comfort in the monotonous nature of his family’s small pond existence, his partner Pam (Elizabeth Banks) and offspring Gwen and Dax are desperate for adventure.  Serendipitously, an unfamiliar flock of northern ducks land in their familiar pond and offer an invitation to head south to spend winter in the more tolerable climate of Jamaica.  Sadly, this one sentence elevator pitch of a plot amounts to the entirety of the film’s story arc.  A 25 minute story spread sparingly across an 85 minute run is not enough to keep even the mildly curious child from climbing the theater walls.

If Migration’s creatively bankrupt plot places the film in danger, its featherweight character development dooms it for failure.  Not one avian character in Renner’s film undergoes the slightest evolutionary step, leaving the second and third acts feeling purposeless.  In a slight spark of hope, imprisoned Jamaican parrot Delroy, voiced by the gifted Keenan-Michael Key, infuses the point A to point B journey with a few flickering humorous intonations.   Most catastrophic though of the poor choices made within the doomed production is that of the film’s primary antagonist “Chef”.  The character's name is offered in quotation because the film does not bestow him with a name, nor does it grant him the gift of speech.  Chef serves only one purpose, and that is to serve the patrons of his restaurant with the French inspired duck a l'orange.  In his pursuit of Mack’s family, Chef wields an impressive array of knives and at one point, pilots a military attack helicopter, yet never utters a whisper of dialogue through which the audience may decipher his murderous motivations.  Just another miss, in the magnificent menu of Migration’s multitude of missteps.

The king of disappointments that Migration perpetrates is to cast a generational comedic talent of Danny DeVito’s esteem and to provide him with such guano of a script.  While his distinct voice is present and delightful, the material with which the traditionally dependable Devito works is simply irredeemable regardless of his vocal prowess.  Sadly, Migration is another in the growing queue of Illumination animated missteps.  Ironically, a film that advocates the merits of flying south for the winter, goes irreversibly south itself. 

Target Score:  2.5/10  Illumination Studios has released another in a line of half hearted animated tales that fails to entertain all but the youngest of audiences. Whichever direction this flock is headed, one is best to head the other way.