Kumail Nanjiani Quacks Up in Animated Comedy “Migration”
Nanjiani voices Mack Mallard, a cautious duck dad with a fear of flying and a penchant for narrating bedtime stories filled with fantastical dangers to his ducklings.
Illumination’s "Migration" (2023) is a delightful animated feature starring Kumail Nanjiani, directed by Benjamin Renner of "Ernest & Celestine" (2012) and written by "The White Lotus" (2021–) creator Mike White. The film follows a family of ducks (aptly named the Mallards) on a journey from New England to Jamaica.
Nanjiani voices Mack Mallard, a cautious duck dad with a fear of flying and a penchant for narrating bedtime stories filled with fantastical dangers to his ducklings Dax (Caspar Jennings) and Gwen (Tresi Gazal). His overprotective nature is countered by his curious and adventurous wife Pam (Elizabeth Banks), who injects encouragement and warmth into her husband’s bedtime tales.
Pam's desire for adventure sparks when migrating birds visit and offer for the Mallards to join them on their journey south. Mack's refusal causes a brief family rift, but it’s not long before he reconsiders his fear of flying for the sake of adventure. The story unfolds briskly, avoiding the pitfalls of overly long children's films. White's script introduces characters efficiently, propelling the Mallards into the sky within the first half-hour.
As the family encounters various challenges, the film explores themes of overcoming narrow-mindedness, a recurring motif in contemporary animated films. The narrative especially emphasizes the limitations of an inflexible “father knows best” mindset.
And while adhering to a familiar formula, the screenplay does also provide genuine laughs. As the Mallards navigate through varied settings, including a city and encounters with amusing characters like a gang of pigeons and a Jamaican parrot, the film maintains a balance between comedy and life lessons.
Beneath the humor, "Migration" explores transformation and connection within the Mallard family. Mack and Pam evolve through shared experiences, reinforcing their bond. Even the ducklings, Dax and Gwen, grow and contribute to the emotional depth of the narrative. The film's appeal lies in its simplicity and heartfelt execution, despite minor flaws. Renner's direction, coupled with a well-assembled cast, creates a visually and emotionally engaging journey that resonates with its audience.
“Migration” is in theaters now.