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‘Exodus’ is an animated family adventure that makes the journey worthwhile with an author’s touch

You can learn a lot about yourself and those around you on vacation. That’s the goal behind HBO’s blockbuster series “The White Lotus,” and it’s also the central theme of the new family animated movie “Migration.” It’s a strange comparison, perhaps, but it all makes perfect sense when you consider that both projects were written by Mike White. He took this idea of ​​the transformative power of travel from the award-winning prestige TV series and transposed it into a kid-friendly animated film about a family of ducks who eventually decide to make an annual migration from their cozy pond to see what they can do. to be able to see.

Kumail Nanjiani voices Mack, the anxious and overprotective patriarch of the Mallard family, who is content to let his family stay in the safety of their pond, away from the sharp heron’s beaks. He underscores his paranoid worldview with terrifying bedtime stories for his children Dax (Caspar Jennings) and Gwen (Tresi Gazal), but when a family of seabirds traveling south to Jamaica for the winter land on their pond to stay, Dax falls in love. He becomes obsessed with Kim (Isabela Merced) and becomes determined to emigrate. Afraid of turning into his worn-out uncle Dan (Danny DeVito) and wanting to impress his wife Pam (Elizabeth Banks), Mack decides to head south with his family, despite all his obstacles. What could go wrong? Oh, everything. But what could go right? So much more.

“Migration” is fast-paced and engaging; is a high-flying outing that doesn’t need to break the mold of such family adventure films. The character design is familiar, but the flight scenes are remarkably designed and executed; colourful, soothing and clearly rendered. But it is also intertwined with a range of cultural interpretations that reveal White’s worldview.

Of course, there are lessons to be learned through travel and adventure, especially about your partner. Mack realizes that Pam is tougher and wiser than she thought, and Pam is fascinated to see Mack step up and take courage as the leader of their family, putting themselves in very, very dangerous situations. This echoes the themes of the resort set “The White Lotus” as well as White’s role as a cast member of the reality show “Survivor.”

You can also see White’s ethical influence in the main antagonist; The uber-cool, tattooed, bad-boy chef is known for his orange duck, and the Mallard family is forced to flee multiple times. A city pigeon named Chump (Awkwafina) explains that the chef is a predator who cooks ducks and feeds them to other lazy predators, the diners. It’s a funny line that may make you sit up straight and wonder if this movie will turn kids off of poultry; so it’s no surprise to discover that White is a vegan for ethical and animal-loving reasons.

His questioning of animal farming practices traces back to another stop at the Mallard family’s cult duck utopia, where birds are fed to slaughter, after releasing the chef’s pet parrot, Delroy (Keegan-Michael Key). Led by a guru named GooGoo (David Mitchell), this place feels like a spa from Mike White’s TV series like “Enlightened” or “Lotus.” But even the kind farmers here surrender their birds to the chief in exchange for cash, and the Mallards cannot escape this maniac with a knife in his tail feathers. In a tense climax, they must fight the chef once and for all before reaching their final destination.

It’s these kinds of details in the storytelling that reveal “Exodus” to be an auteur project for White, who wrote the script and imagined the story with director Benjamin Renner. It’s a family-friendly, seasonal, nondenominational holiday movie option, but it’s more fun to find out what makes this a Mike White project, and its influence gives it a slight edge over the others, making “Exodus” a worthwhile journey.

“Migration” — 2.5 stars (out of 4)

MPA rating: PG (for action/peril and mild crude humor)

Running time: 1:32

How to watch: In theaters December 22

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