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Anyone who’s ever pondered a mid-life career change or even a bold new haircut must ask themselves the same question: Is it worth the risk?

That’s the age-old dilemma at the heart of the animated feature film, “Migration,” which follows a family of mallard ducks from the safety of their home pond to the chaos of New York City and beyond.

Nestled in a bucolic wood, the Mallards – yes, that’s their family name – live in the hollow of a cozy tree stump, safe from predators and the need to migrate. Papa Mallard, Mack (Kumail Nanjiani), is deeply protective of his brood, especially older boy Dax (Caspar Jennings) and younger daughter Gwen (Tresi Gazal).

The Mallard kids get a tantalizing glimpse of a new life when migrating ducks land in their pond.

Mama Pam (Elizabeth Banks) keeps the peace until a large flock of migrating ducks lands in their pond and plants ideas of adventure in the kids’ heads. The migrators invite the Mallards to join them in the Caribbean, and everyone seems excited – except Mack.

Pam: I don’t want to miss out on life because you’re afraid to leave this pond. This isn’t about migration – it’s about adventure! Seeing what else life has to offer. Is that a little scary? Sure. But is it worth it?

Mack: No, Pam. Not really.

It wouldn’t be much of a movie if the Mallards didn’t finally convince Mack there was more to life than the shelter of their pond. And so, the family – along with daffy Uncle Dan (Danny DeVito) – start out on what promises to be the trip of a lifetime.

The Mallards don’t get far before a storm forces them to shelter in a swamp, home of Erin the heron, voiced with unhinged glee by the legendary Carol Kane as one of the films standout characters. It’s the first in a series of increasingly wild, and often hilarious obstacles the family face as they try to reunite with the migrating ducks in Jamaica.

Erin the heron walks a fine line between friend and foe.

Along the way, they’re joined by a colorful cast, including a tiny alpha pigeon, Chump (Awkwafina), a bevy of plump pekins, and a scarlet macaw named Delroy (Keegan-Michael Key), who becomes the Mallards’ oft-addled guide to his homeland of Jamaica.

As is fitting for a movie about ducks, the “big bad” of the story is a cook – the obnoxiously over-the-top celebrity chef who keeps Delroy in a gilded cage at his fancy New York restaurant.

Chump: Delroy’s owner is a chef.

Pam: A chef?

Chump: Yeah, a chef. Like a predator, except instead of eating you, he feeds you to a group of much lazier predators.

Freeing scarlet macaw Delroy from his cage causes all sorts of trouble.

As the Mallards work to free Delroy – and eventually themselves – from the grip of a villain who looks a bit like Gordon Ramsay on steroids, they lean on each other, and Mack learns that his family really are capable of handling themselves in the big, scary world.

By the time the family rejoin the migrators in a tropical paradise – just the beginning of their new life outside the pond – they’ve all learned the answer to that original question: It was totally worth it.

Mack: Come on, Pam! We’re going to the South Pole!

Pam: I’ve created a monster.


Migration vs. Reality

While there have been a few grumbles among more expert viewers about the “factual errors” in “Migration,” let’s be real: This a cartoon. Ducks don’t speak English, can’t wear clouds like bath bubbles, and certainly aren’t embarrassed to poop mid-flight.

In the spirit of education, though, it’s fun to look at other ways the film alters reality.

Mallards, like many waterfowl, don’t exist in nuclear families. While they’re often monogamous, males don’t stick around to protect and raise ducklings. And they don’t have green heads year-round. Additionally, pekin ducks, like the ones fattened up for the villainous chef in “Migration,” wouldn’t be able to fly long distances.

For the purists, though, what does it get “right”?

Animation in the migration scenes captures the wide vistas above the tree tops.

According to a recent Audubon article, the film “captures the grandeur of migration with scenic flight sequences of the family over lush landscapesdrawing inspiration from the real bird phenomenon.”

But papa duck Mack is right to fear the journey with “dangers both ancient and modern, such as hurricanes, predators, habitat loss, and light pollution, to name a few.” The family’s encounter with the great blue herons is also on the money, says the org. While they may not fry their dinner in pan, herons are happy to prey on ducklings!

Do mallards migrate to Jamaica? No. But some do migrate, and according to Audubon, scientists are discovering that the species’ urge to make an annual journey may be, as the movie implies, as individual as the birds themselves.

Real or kid’s fantasy, however, speaks for all bird lovers when it says, “The mere fact that a major studio produced a children’s comedy about birds is worth celebrating.”

We’ll quack to that!

Bonus: Check out the movie’s website on a touch-screen for a  little game!

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