Just how well does this baby fly?
By Kimberly Gadette (doddleNEWS)
As Warner Bros.’ first big budget animated feature since 2014’s The Lego Movie, Storks delivers a nascent idea. Granted, 2016 has previously birthed some well-received originals such as Zootopia and The Secret Life of Pets; now, with Storks, it’s refreshing to see that everything new isn’t old again.
The movie opens with a back story about how the preeminent, stork-ian baby delivery system had run into major snafus, such as avian operator error, cargo mix-ups and untoward aircraft collisions. Throwing in the diaper, the powers-that-be reinvented the company, turning it into a global package delivery corporation for an internet retail behemoth called Cornerstone.com. (Amazon, anyone?) At least the storks were able to keep their jobs.
But the over-achieving Junior (voiced by Andy Samberg) doesn’t just want to keep his job. Proudly completing his one-millionth parcel drop, he’s angling for a top promotion from his megalomaniacal boss Hunter (voiced by Kelsey Grammer). However, when the audacious, 18-year-old Orphan Tulip (voiced by Katie Crown, making her feature debut) accidentally sets off the company’s supposedly defunct baby-maker machine and worse, when the world’s most adorable infant girl materializes, Junior knows he’ll be blamed for the mess — and his promotion will disappear into the wild blue yonder. Before you can say “Pampers,” Tulip and Junior embark on a mission to deliver the baby, save Junior’s job and maybe even help Tulip locate her own long-lost family.
This buddy comedy offers a flock of high-flying fun. Such as when the bickering duo + baby run afoul of a vicious wolf pack … who suddenly fall head over paw for the infant. They croon. They sigh. With their vicious eyes turning into moist, shining hearts, they insist that they must have the baby for their own. When the trio attempts to escape, the wolf pack morphs into expedient modes of transport (bridges, boats, vans) in order to corner their quarry. They become a lupine-esque Transformer, if you will, and the results are laugh-out-loud funny. Adding to the delight is the fact that the top wolves are voiced by comic geniuses Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele.
The character of Tulip fairly springs off the screen with pizazz. Initially sequestered like a Disney heroine with a mean stepmother, the dauntless teen with the carrot-colored mop of curly hair won’t give in to self-pity. Instead, she turns herself into a one-woman show, acting out an entire cast of outrageous characters simply to amuse herself. Somewhere on the other side of the planet, she has a kindred spirit in an only child named Nate. Isolated as well, saddled with two workaholic parents (voiced by Jennifer Aniston and Ty Burrell), Nate has to rely on his own boundless creativity to while away the hours. Though both of them have been marginalized, both of them are determined to change their situations.
Storks deals with the theme of belonging, of searching for the home where the heart is. Whether that home exists at the center of a biological family, or couched within a circle of deeply loving friends, it is this search that drives the lead characters.
A first timer to animation, writer and co-director Nicholas Stoller (Neighbors, The Five Year Engagement, The Muppets, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) focused more on the comedy, while co-director Doug Sweetland, having worked on Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Cars, contributed his bona fides of digital animation.
Perhaps the fact that this was Stoller’s first foray into the medium — and given animation’s inherent quality of the visual over the verbal — Stoller’s screenplay ran into problems of overkill. Storks has some nonessential story lines that hinder the film’s impetus, and serves up two overblown dramatic breaks in the third act. Further, Nate’s parents should be hauled in by social services. Even within the parameters of the Storks world, the manner in which the parents are portrayed – all but ignoring their son’s existence altogether – strikes a discordant note.
Though this reviewer saw the film in 3D, the visual experience should be perfectly fine in 2D. Some of the sets are standouts, i.e., the capacious warehouse interiors brimming with Rube Goldberg-like contraptions. Ditto the marvelous Baby Factory.
The filmmakers throw in a nod to diversity at the end, which might have seemed less like an afterthought if it had been woven into the framework of the story. As for the trade-off from the past stork delivery specialty (sweet, sweet babies) to the present (commercial packages), this idea could have benefitted from a deeper exploration. We’re beyond the oversimplified concept of humans = good, vs. machines = bad. Storks might have soared higher by taking more than a passing, bird’s-eye view.
Lastly: The movie should consider issuing a blanket apology to parents everywhere. Seriously, how are they going to explain where babies come from now?
Rating on a scale of 5 baby carriers: 3.5
Release date: July 23, 2016
Directed by: Nicholas Stoller, Doug Sweetland
Written by: Nicholas Stoller
Voice Cast: Andy Samberg, Katie Crown, Kelsey Grammer, Jennifer Aniston, Ty Burrell, Anton Starkman, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Danny Trejo, Stephen Kramer Glickman
Running Time: 89 minutes
Here’s the trailer for Storks: