Classic cartoon wisdom deems that ducks are brash and brazen creatures. See Donald and Daffy, ill-tempered anthropomorphic animals who aren’t afraid of making a display of their displeasure.
Mack Mallard, the waterfowl patriarch voiced by Kumail Nanjiani in the animated family picture “Migration,” is not exactly a shy bird himself. He displays a rapid-fire volubility when telling his kids a bedtime story at the movie’s opening. But he’s very timid in one respect. The emphatic point of the bedtime story is: Never leave the pond. It’s the only place that’s safe.
But when his kids, Dax and Gwen, encounter a flock flying from their home in upstate New York to Jamaica for the winter, Mack’s wife, Pam (Elizabeth Banks), takes the kids’ side.
Even when the highways are in the sky, it’s not an American comedic road trip without a crusty older relative coming along for the ride, and this is where Uncle Dan (Danny DeVito) comes in. The Mallards spend a lot of time trying to avoid being eaten, first by a couple of grotesque herons, and then in a Manhattan restaurant run by a thoroughly obnoxious chef.
The movie was directed by Benjamin Renner, but the dominant artistic voice is that of the screenwriter Mike White, the creator of the satirical HBO series “The White Lotus.” White is vegan, which explains the insistent meat-is-murder angle throughout, although considering that “Lotus” is so disdainful of tourism, the perspective on travel here may be surprising. The stellar voice cast also includes Awkwafina as a tough New York City pigeon and Keegan-Michael Key as a captive parrot.
This Illumination-produced feature is preceded by a “Minions”-adjacent short called “Mooned,” which overexerts itself trying to approximate a vintage Looney Tunes gag-fest. In the end, “Migration” moves along at jet speed while often feeling labored.
Rated PG. Running time: 1 hour 32 minutes. In theaters.