“Migration,” sadly, is so bereft of any real point of interest for any viewer over the age of 8, that it almost makes “Dawn of the Nugget” look like Miyazaki’s latest film by comparison. How bereft, you may wonder? So bereft that I plan to avoid using any bird-related comments that I suspect will accompany other reviews on the basis that even those critiques, as hackneyed as they may be, demonstrate greater flashes of wit and ingenuity than anything on display here.
The focus of the film are the Mallards, a family of ducks consisting of overly cautious dad Mack (Kumail Nanjiani), adventurous mom Pam (Elizabeth Banks), teen son Dax (Caspar Jennings), adorable duckling daughter Gwen (Tresi Gazal) and grumpy Uncle Dan (Danny DeVito). They have never left the confines of their New England pond, largely due to Mack’s fears of what could happen to them in the outside world. However, when another family of ducks, including one (Isabela Merced) that Dax immediately crushes on, lands in their pond for a brief stop on their annual migratory journey to Jamaica, the rest of the family cajoles the initially hesitant Mack to break out of their collective rut and make the trip to the Caribbean themselves.
Presumably because they are out of practice, the Mallards inevitably head the wrong way and soon find themselves lost in the middle of New York City, where they encounter a gang of pigeons led by the irascible Chump (Awkwafina). As it happens, Chump knows a Jamaican parrot named Delroy (Keegan-Michael Key) who can help them find their way down South. Delroy, however, is currently caged up inside a trendy Manhattan restaurant as the pet of the owner/head chef. The Mallards manage to set Delroy free and try to make their way to Jamaica. Along the way, they go through the expected amount of wacky hijinks and exceedingly mild conflicts as they’re relentlessly chased by the malevolent Martin Yan-wannabe chef, whose place must be doing well since he is apparently able to afford his own private helicopter to help in his pursuit.
And that is pretty much it—a story so slender that it feels more like a TV special, the kind cranked out by a popular franchise to keep up audience interest in between the actual feature films. That in itself isn’t startling, but what is surprising is that a film as utterly innocuous as this was written by Mike White—yes, the same one responsible for the likes of “School of Rock,” “Year of the Dog” and “The White Lotus” (and yeah, he was also the co-writer of the admittedly worse “The Emoji Movie”). It’s even more shocking to see Benjamin Renner attached as co-director; his previous films have included such sly, charming and visually striking animated features as “Ernest & Celestine” and “The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales.”