Storks is an entertaining family film fueled by a series of powerful messages for everyone in the audience.
Storks is set in a world where the titular birds have moved on from their old calling of delivering babies to expectant parents. Deeming the practice too dangerous, the storks’ boss Hunter (Kelsey Grammer) reorganizes the company into cornerstore.com, an Amazon-esque business that brings manufactured goods (such as smartphones) to customers in an efficient manner. Junior (Andy Samberg) has established himself as one of Corner Store’s top employees, and his performance puts him in line for a major promotion. All he has to do to secure his new position is fire the well-meaning, yet inept, human Tulip (Katie Crown) – but Junior feels guilty and sends Tulip to the now defunct letter room instead.
Meanwhile, young boy Nate (Anton Starkman) has become frustrated by his workaholic parents Sarah (Jennifer Aniston) and Henry (Ty Burrell) dedicating more time to their jobs than him. Seeing a brochure for the Storks, Nate writes a letter requesting a baby brother. Tulip receives it, and much to Junior’s chagrin, accidentally creates a little baby girl. The two are then forced to deliver the adorable Diamond Destiny to her family before anyone figures out what has happened.
Storks is the latest film from Warner Animation Group, the studio that was responsible for the critically acclaimed The LEGO Movie, and is written and directed by Nicholas Stoller. Stoller both directed the Neighbors films and co-wrote the two most recent Muppets movies – and with Storks, his intention is to bring his zany brand of comedy to the animation realm. Fortunately, he’s very successful in this regard. Storks is an entertaining family film fueled by a series of powerful messages for everyone in the audience.
While Storks doesn’t get as deep as some of Pixar’s works or The LEGO Movie, the script still tackles some surprisingly mature topics that will arguably strike a chord more for the adults in attendance than the children. The subplot involving Nate, Henry, and Sarah is extremely effective and emotional, and may cause some people to reevaluate their priorities in life. Nate in particular has several lines of dialogue that hit hard, and Starkman’s matter-of-fact delivery strongly complements the writing. The lessons taught here are Storks’ most memorable and elevate the film to well-rounded entertainment for the whole family.
The main storyline involving Junior and Tulip makes for a fun adventure, incorporating the trope of a mismatched pair on a quest. Samberg does a good job as Junior, relying heavily on his goofy man-child persona to entertaining results. As one would expect, he is responsible for many of Storks‘ humorous beats and remains committed to the role. Crown is a standout as Tulip, portraying the character as a vulnerable, kind-hearted individual with achingly relatable hopes and dreams. The two actors play off each other nicely and sell their characters’ arcs. Tulip has the most depth of the duo, but luckily Junior isn’t one-note. And Diamond Destiny steals the show as one of the cutest on-screen babies in recent memory, instantly melting hearts with her infectious laugh and ninja skills.
That said, not everything in the screenplay is as well-executed. In particular, a detour featuring a wolf pack trying to make Diamond Destiny one of their own overstays its welcome (with a repetitive gag that loses its punch as it goes on) and comes across as superfluous to the narrative – despite the best efforts of Keegan Michael-Key and Jordan Peele, who voice two of the wolves. As a result, crucial side characters Hunter and Pigeon Toady (Stephen Kramer Glickman) are shortchanged and come across more as caricatures than fully rendered characters. For the purposes of the movie, they’re solid additions, but as presented they are thin sketches that won’t stick around. Of the supporting cast, Jasper is probably the best, with Danny Trejo coming in to cameo as the characters – an old stork looking to right previous wrongs.
Though Storks has its shortcomings, it’s able to make up for whatever’s missing with unbridled enthusiasm. Stoller leans on the cartoon physics of the Looney Tunes world for his film, which makes for amusing visual comedy and jokes (like a fight between Junior, Tulip, and a group of penguins). The world-building here is reminiscent (though not as extensive) as something like Monsters, Inc. in that it puts a bird spin on traditional everyday tasks (see: the sequence where Nate’s letter is sent to Storks HQ). Some may have hoped to explore the Storks universe further, but what’s presented gets the job done. And with a svelte running time, Storks breezes by with a brisk pace that keeps the plot moving forward. From a directorial perspective, Stoller has a nice handle on the material and possesses a good understanding of the audience. For his first animated effort, it’s visually sharp and impressive.
In the end, Storks is a solid, well-made movie that viewers of all ages should be able to enjoy. It doesn’t scale the emotional heights of some of 2016’s other animated offerings (like Zootopia and Finding Dory), but it still has important morals that speak volumes to kids and adults. The positives outweigh the negatives, and Storks‘ merits make it worth checking out on the big screen. Families looking for a fun time at the theater won’t be disappointed by what Stoller and company have to offer them.
Storks is now playing in U.S. theaters. It runs 89 minutes and is rated PG for mild action and some thematic elements.
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