Synopsis – Storks have moved on from delivering babies to packages. But when an order for a baby appears, the best delivery stork must scramble to fix the error by delivering the baby.
My Take – The importance of family has become sort of a recurring theme for animated films now days. Here, the film puts its own spin on our current society, were we prefer materialism over our actual family. Although the humor is more than goofy and the animation isn’t anything too special, the film provides a well-strung emotional story about birds’ history with delivering babies. For decades’ kids have asked their parents “Where do babies come from?”, this question to parents have forced them in a state of desperation to come up with creative answers. One popular story wielded by parents is the concept of the stork delivering babies to doorsteps. This weekend, director & writers Nicholas Stoller & Doug Sweetland have managed to craft an animated film all about the miracle of these white winged wonders. That’s more than impressive in and of itself.
The story follows a stork known as Junior (Andy Samberg), who is a star performer of a delivery business run by Hunter (Kelsey Grammer). Eighteen years ago, the storks suffered a disaster in which one of their crazed members became too attached to a human child and her parents’ address was lost. As a result, the storks quit the baby making and delivery business and transformed themselves into an Amazon.com-analogue, delivering consumer goods instead of children. In order to promote Junior to his post, Hunter gives him a minor task i.e. Fire the accident-prone Tulip (Katie Crown), the outfit’s sole human employee and the result of a delivery mishap that left the whereabouts of her parents completely unknown. (She’s casually referred to as “Orphan Tulip” by the other storks.) Before Tulip can be let go, she accidentally fires up the long-dormant baby-making device, granting the wish of young Nate (Anton Starkman) for the younger sibling that his work-obsessed parents (Ty Burrell and Jennifer Aniston) refuse to provide. Therefore, Tulip and Junior must then deliver this baby without Hunter finding out. Needless to say, all matter of mischief ensues as these unlikely friends discover what it truly means to be a family. This film isn’t a particularly groundbreaking film in that it follows some of the same basic patterns of any kid’s film: situation, problem, wacky adventures, and heartfelt resolution. The film very openly plays with the materialism-versus-family themes from there. Junior wants to be the “boss” of the company, to be “bros” with his fellow Storks despite them having little interest in hanging out with him on the weekend. Nate, meanwhile, wants nothing more than an actual brother, which he hears another kid describe as “a best friend you can take home with you.” Touchingly, Nate manages to guilt his parents into actually spending time with him, constructing an elaborate signal for the storks to find their house. Junior and Tulip, on the other hand, become the film’s odd couple in their efforts to get this baby across the world and wrestling with their own paternal instincts even as Junior just wants to just get rid of the kid. A particularly telling point is the inclusion of a pack of wolves (whose leaders are played by Key and Peele) that can transform into a bridge, a submarine, and even a minivan. It’s ridiculous, a bit overdone, and all very normal for a kid’s film. Where it does surprise is in its meaningful exploration of family as more than just something that tends to a child, but as a spiritual unit that finds fulfillment and purpose in expanding itself. Family is an instinctive matter–Tulip understands this when she has a maternal freak-out the first time she hears the baby cry–but it’s also a matter of developing the future, seen when Junior has a wonderful glimpse of the baby’s destiny. Stupid as all this may sound, the film’s main attraction is the cuteness bundled in the 87 minute run time. I don’t just mean the baby, although the magenta haired munchkin will certainly melt many aspiring/current parents’ hearts.
Much of my audience awed at some of the sweet moments our first time “foster” parents experience, many of which will bring nostalgic memories of your child’s firsts rushing back. But if the main story isn’t up your alley, the side tale of a family struggling to spend quality time might be the ticket for you, especially with that song track they play. Perhaps the biggest bang of the film though, is the emotion the team have placed throughout the journey. A simple opening starts to soften the heart as the intentions of Tulip are shared, which no surprise is the preachy, noble, and justice filled goals all protagonists have. It’s just an opening I promise. As they travel through the world, various themes of parenting and letting go fill the screen that again will start to knock the walls down further. Yet the ending is where the true punch is. Without ruining anything, the film’s ending has a powerful, well animated, montage, complete with orchestrated sappy music, to open the flood gate of tears of most parents in the audience. Even though the overall plot is quite passable, the screenplay does provide some good punches – although inexplicable on some occasions. What I loved the most were some of the innovative humor used around the wolf pack and the penguins. Despite the unique twist on the story, the film’s originality does not extend much past that and falls into the time tested pattern once again. Oh sure, I was wrong on one prediction, but the trailers have given much of the little surprise away. Such a shame with the promise they made, but hey we at least got laughs out of it right? Right? Wrong! You might go into the film thinking or hoping for kiddy laughs with a few clever puns thrown in the mix. This was not the case. Surprisingly, this film’s jokes are geared towards a more adult audience in terms of delivery, content, and comprehension. I don’t mean sex jokes (this isn’t Sausage Party), but much of the film gears towards parenting humor and themes of abandonment that might be a little over your little ones’ heads. Yes, there is some slapstick comedy, bodily harm, and a pigeon with a goofy voice named Pigeon Toady (Stephen Kramer Glickman) that will make them laugh. But aside from that, considering the whole concept & the voice cast, the humour especially in the first half fails. Nevertheless, this would have been a rather forgettable film if not for stellar voice acting. The film has assembled an impressive cast of celebrities which include the likes of Andy Samberg, Kelsey Grammer, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, all of whom attack their roles with sheer delight. Key and Peele in particular shine as the leaders of a spastic wolf pack who become smitten with a human baby, and it’s a shame their characters didn’t get more screen time. I am huge fan of Andy Samberg (Brooklyn Nine Nine & Popstar), and as I had expected he makes his character Junior very enjoyable. Katie Crown does fine as the directionless Tulip. Grammer deserves credit for creating a villainous voice distinct from his Sideshow Bob which still makes use of his erudite thespian skills. Glickman uses an overdone accent for Toady that makes him very difficult to understand, although in fairness, the film has some fun with this problem. Danny Trejo as Jasper is likable. Ty Burrell & Jennifer Aniston don’t have much to do. On the whole, ‘Storks’ is a little inconsistent in the comedy department, yet succeeds in being a fun & refreshing animated film.
Rated – PG
Run Time – 87 minutes