Illumination Spreads Its Wings with ‘Migration’ (Review)

by | Dec 20, 2023


This fun, family-centered animated film from Illumination shows the studio’s further potential outside of their usual suspect.

If there’s any animation studio that should take a victory lap for 2023, it’s Illumination. First, they released the year’s biggest animated film back in the spring with The Super Mario Bros. Movie. Now, the studio is releasing Migration, an original idea written by Mike White (creator of the HBO hit The White Lotus). Illumination is known for the biggest currently-on-going animated franchise right now in Despicable Me. But the studio continues to expand beyond the usual suspect with films that have spawned sequels, including The Secret Life of Pets and Sing. With Migration, Illumination continues to show their limitless potential with new ideas that are not only creative, but also fun and enjoyable for the entire family.

Migration follows a family of mallards (wild ducks) living peacefully in a pond. Because of their overprotective father, Mack (Kumail Nanjiani), the family never has ventured outside the pond. But thanks to some persuasion from the mother, Pam (Elizabeth Banks), and the two children, Dax and Gwen, after they encounter a group of migrating ducks who talk about the warmth of the south, the family (along with their uncle voiced by Danny DeVito) ventures south – or at least that’s what they think.

Viewers likely will pick up familiar storylines from Migration, with most notably coming from Pixar’s Finding Nemo. However, Migration is still original enough to where it feels fresh and funny for viewers of all ages to enjoy. Whether it’s seeing the family encounter other types of birds or getting out of harm’s way, there’s something here for everyone. One moment your children might be laughing at some of the ducks’ antics, while at other times adults may find themselves chuckling at the darker meaning of some of the jokes writer Mike White subtly drops in for older viewers to catch on to.

The voice cast of Migration is one of the better ensembles we’ve seen in an animated film this year. Leading the way as the voices of the parents of the mallard family, Kumail Nanjiani and Elizabeth Banks, are as good as you would expect from two of Hollywood’s favorite working actors right now. Adding in bits of humor in the back half of the film include Awkwafina and Keegan-Michael Kay as the voices of a pigeon and parrot. But the standout voice (and the most humorous one) is easily Danny DeVito as the uncle of the mallard family. From the first time we meet him up until the credits roll, you’ll be reminded why DeVito is a favorite actor among many regular moviegoers. But even if you’re a kid who may not be familiar with DeVito, you’ll still laugh out loud at some of his character’s moments.

Migration is one of the better films from Illumination since the inception of the studio. While it might not be the best animated film of the year, it’s arguably the best-looking animated film Illumination has ever made and a perfect pick to see with the family (and especially with kids) over the holiday season. By delivering a fun and often humorous feature about a family of ducks, Illumination continues to show why they’ve made a name for themselves in the animation realm. Other animation studios, particularly Disney, should take note of how Illumination is consistently putting out good products for all ages.


RATING: ★★★1/2

(out of five stars)