“Migration” 4K UHD Review



Rated PG – for action/peril and mild rude humor.
Director: Benjamin Renner, Guylo Homsy
Starring: voices of Kumail Nanjiani, Elizabeth Banks, Keegan-Michael Key, Danny DeVito, Awkwafina, Carol Kane
Running Time: 1 hour, 23 minutes
Theatrical Release Date: December 22, 2023
4K UHD Release Date: February 27, 2024 (Amazon.com)

Plot Summary

A family of ducks try to convince their overprotective father to go on the vacation of a lifetime. (from IMDB)

Film Review

The latest project from animation studio Illumination is their most fowl to date — centering entirely on a family of mallard ducks. Aptly titled Migration, the movie is a bit of a departure from the zaniness of the studio’s Despicable Me and Minions films, but nevertheless serves as a highly enjoyable family outing.

Over twenty years ago, raising two baby wild mallards that had been abandoned on our back porch was an unexpected season for my family. When the pair eventually, and inevitably, flew away a few months later, we ended up taking in domesticated ducks, and to this day, my parents still have one duck as a pet. All of this is to say that we’re not your typical audience for a story about ducks. We have a major soft spot for the water fowl, and a story like Migration is directly up our alleys. For us, Migration is nearly “cuteness overload” – in a good way – and we left the theater with warm hearts and smiles spread across our faces.

But as a straightforward family movie for the rest of the movie-going public, Migration also works. The mallard family is made up of Mack and Pam and their two ducklings, Gwen and Dax, who all have never ventured outside the safety of their pond. When a flock of ducks lands nearby and talks of migrating to Jamaica for the winter, Pam and the kids express their desire to make the daring trek as well. However, Mack is fearful of the world beyond the confines of their home, and super reluctant to make such a journey. Thankfully, his Uncle Dan inadvertently changes his mind and the family set off on a flight to warmer weather. While the mallards certainly run into serious and dangerous situations along the way, they stick together and learn to adjust to living their day-to-day on the fly.

I have to say it’s absolutely refreshing to have a family movie that doesn’t drag down the mood or tone for the sake of heavy drama and conflict. For example, Mack and Pam truly love each other, and through their adventures, they only seem to grow closer together. Mack has the biggest character growth in the movie, as he conjures up some bravery along the way, but little Dax also gets a chance to step up and prove his moxy, too. But since there isn’t major friction between Pam and Mack, a scene where they use salsa dancing to avoid being trampled by human dancers is sweet, as well as when the pair find themselves briefly trapped in a cage together. Good vibes abound in Migration, and it makes for a really feel-good story.

Illumination really got my attention with 2018’s The Grinch. The way they animated the snow and portrayed light was truly jaw-dropping. Now, already five years later, it still looks incredible. With Migration, it isn’t snow, but water, and how light is used in the sky. Also, the expressiveness of the ducks is ridiculously adorable and fun. The movie is certainly a feast for the eyes, even if it’s a little more subtle this time compared to how spellbinding the look of the snow was before.

The voice performances are also fantastic. Kumail Nanjiani and Elizabeth Banks turn in truly wonderful performances as Mack and Pam (respectively), and Keegan-Michael Key is virtually unrecognizable underneath a Jamaican accent as Delroy. Tresi Gazal and Caspar Jennings are also super cute as Gwen and Dax, and Carol Kane is perfect as the surprisingly off-putting heron, Erin.

Migration is rated PG, but I’d have to say it only just barely warrants the rating. I feel as though I’ve seen much more harrowing G-rated movies than this one. There is no profanity or crude content, but there is some violence and at least one surprisingly dark and creepy sequence. The latter involves the ducks being caught in a storm and forced to seek refuge inside the shelter of two herons. The mallards know that herons eat ducks, so they are terrified to be in their company. Carol Kane’s heron, Erin, is super creepy the entire time she’s on screen. From her big eyes to her spindly legs, everything about her makes you uneasy. The sequence is also a bit longer than you might expect, and it is certainly uncomfortable. Later in the film, our fine-feathered heroes find themselves tangoing with the chef of a fine restaurant who has made a name for himself with an apparently succulent duck dish. The man, who remains unnamed and without a single line of dialog, is a goofy-yet-menacing looking fellow who frequently spins a knife in one hand, or is seen wielding a cleaver. He ends up chasing the ducks, and the mallards find themselves having to evade him more than once. Violence-wise, there’s also a gag where a pigeon is hit by various speeding vehicles, but manages to survive the encounter.

As much as we loved Migration, it’s hardly the best animated movie around; the story is pretty simple and I can see some moviegoers finding the story’s lack of major conflict among the main characters actually being a downside. However, for me, Migration‘s feel-good vibes swoop in at just the right time, making it one of those cinematic holiday releases that help boost – or fuel – the joy of the season.

– John DiBiase (reviewed: 12/30/23)

4K UHD Special Features Review

The 4K UHD release of Migration includes the feature film in 4K and bonus features on disc, along with a 4K MoviesAnywhere digital copy and a Blu-Ray disc. The 4K quality of the film is fantastic. The clarity is crisp and certainly lends to the exceptionally expressive animation style. The color is also super vibrant, and with Illumination’s beautiful use of light in their animation, the 4K format is just lovely. I definitely recommend this movie in 4K UHD.

The Extras on the 4K disc include:

Fly Hard (4:01) – In the new animated short, Chump the Central Park pigeon, voiced by Awkwafina, is eating crumbs with her fellow pigeons that an old woman named Dolores is throwing to them. When it starts to snow, Dolores leaves, but accidentally drops a locket. Chump decides to try to fly it back to her and finds it to be way more challenging than she expected. It’s a pretty cute little short film.

Mooned (8:40) – The second short is actually a cartoon that showed before Migration‘s feature in the theater. Sadly, my family and I missed most of it in the theater when we arrived late, so it’s cool to get to see it here. “Mooned” serves as a direct sequel to the original Despicable Me movie, picking up where the villainous Vector (voiced by Jason Siegel) ended up stranded on the moon. There’s a great deal of slapstick humor as Vector tries to escape the moon in true Wile E. Coyote fashion (with failed attempt after failed attempt). There’s no language, besides Vector frequently calling things “stupid,” but he does say the alternative “Cheese and crackers” at one point. (And a “Son of a… rock!”)

Midnight Mission (4:52) – The third short is another brand new story involving the Despicable Me characters. When little Agnes laments to one of the minions “why does it have to be so dark outside?” at night, three of them suit up and fly a rocket into space to do something about it. What ensues is basically your usual minion mayhem… just set in space. It’s a nice little addition here.

Microphone Madness (3:11) – This is a fun little collection of in-studio outtakes and silliness that took place during the voice recording sessions. Awkwafina jokingly drops the “F” word at one point – which is bleeped and her mouth is covered at that moment by the image of a duck – with fellow cast members admonishing her on not using that kind of language.

Meet The Cast is broken down into segments for each main cast member with a Play All (15:37) option. The sections are — Kumail Nanjiani: Mack, Elizabeth Banks: Pam, Keegan-Michael Key: Delroy, Awkwafina: Chump, Danny DeVito: Uncle Dan, Carol Kane: Erin, Caspar Jennings: Dax & Tresi Gazal: Gwen. The director, editor and other crew talk about (and gush about) the individual actors, their talents, and the characters they play. There’s a lot of great in-studio footage mixed in here, too, showing the cast as they’re recording their voice work.

Taking Flight: The Making of (5:29) – The directors and crew talk about coming up with the story and concept and show lots of animation examples. One of the animators even shows how they manipulate the characters on a computer.

The Art of Flight (1:58) is a montage of in-progress animation and concept images, set to music from the film.

The Sound of Flight (2:57) – Composer John Powell talks about choosing this project and scoring it. He goes through his thought process in approaching the story and project, with lots of footage from the movie mixed in.

How To Draw (10:33) is separated into four sections centered around four different characters: Mack, Delroy, Chump and Gwen, with a Play All option. Director Benjamin Renner shows you how to draw each of them in a sketchy manner with a pen on a computer.

Build Your Own Pop-Up Book (11:07) is a how-to craft video. First they give you a list of materials needed, and then go through the process step-by-step on how to make a page with a slider on it. Next, they show you how to make a pop-up page with two flying ducks, and then another page where a heron’s bill pops out in 3D. Next, they show you how to make a page with eyes that can move back and forth, and a folded hidden image page. Finally, they show you how to assemble it all as a complete book and decorate the cover.

Calling All Birds (5:34) is broken down into 3 segments with a Play All option: The Mack Quack, The Heron Honk and The Chump Chirp. Each segment shows you how to make crafts for kids to mimic different bird calls with.

Best Nests (5:47) is separated into “Nests” and “Water Feeder” with a Play All option. In this one, they actually show you how to take leaves and sticks around your yard, and craft supplies if desired, to make a real-life nest for real live ducks! The “Water Feeder” is assembled using an empty milk carton, and decorated on the outside.

– John DiBiase(reviewed: 2/28/24)

Parental Guide: Content Summary

. Sex/Nudity: None.
. Vulgarity/Language: None.
. Alcohol/Drugs: None.
. Blood/Gore: None.
. Violence: The opening sequence illustrates Mack telling his kids a story of predators killing ducklings. We see some of this, while Pam jumps in and tries to make the story more upbeat; The ducks try to evade a predator and the ducklings are almost gobbled up by a large fish. A bird snatches the fish, however; Pigeons attack Uncle Dan who has a sandwich; The chef is frequently seen spinning a knife in one hand; The chef knocks a plate out of a worker’s hand, sending it flying across the kitchen and smashing against the wall; The chef is about to chop a cooked duck with a cleaver, startling Mack. A couple ducks accidentally set off a fire extinguisher and cause mayhem in the kitchen; The chef busts down a door; The chef chases the ducks; The chef uses a two-pronged fork to pin a duckling to the ground. When it gets out, he steps on the duck’s wings to keep it from moving. The duckling then tears itself away, pulling feathers out of its wings; Mack attacks the chef; We see the chef with broken glasses and a bandaged nose; A large net ensnares a bunch of birds; The chef grabs a couple ducks by the neck and throws them into a cage, wedging it closed with the two-pronged fork; Some birds throw fresh produce at the chef, hitting him many times. He then falls out of a helicopter and is caught up in a net; Two birds in a cage fall through the air from a great height – which would kill them when they hit the ground – but they are rescued in the air; And some other cartoon violence.

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