I don’t know how or why but it’s beginning to look like 2016 was the year every major animation studio became desperate to release at least one “talking animals” film each. From Disney we got Zootopia, Dreamworks did Kung Fu Panda 3, Pixar released the “long-awaited” Finding Dory, Illumination (Despicable Me) gave us Secret Life of Pets, Blue Sky farted out Ice Age 5, and Satan himself made Norm of the North (I suppose The Little Prince and Kubo and the Two Strings might also count to an extent but let’s not be here all day.)
And now at last, there’s Sony Imageworks (Surf’s Up, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) and Warner Bros. Animation, coming together to bring us a 90-minute movie about storks. Is it weird that the one with least extraordinary premise thus far is possibly the funniest, wittiest, and most pleasant one yet?
Storks invites us to the company of Cornerstone, where all the storks who deliver newborn babies to the human world are employed (the company also creates the babies, just to be clear). I suspect they either have the same time-warping technology as Santa Claus or that their only clients are people who still believe that story and have never had sex. As the film starts, the baby delivery service of Cornerstone has nevertheless been converted to mail delivery and the last baby they created, an orphan named Tulip (Katie Crown), now works there.
So too does Junior (Andy Samberg), a delivery stork with a spotless track record. Hunter (Kelsey Grammer), the company’s CEO, is being considered for the position of Chairman. He orders Junior to fire Tulip for her unsolicited attempts to improve the company with her failed inventions, promising him a promotion in return. Junior not only fails to do this but Tulip also receives a letter from a lonely little boy named Nate Gardner, who wants nothing more in life than a baby brother. He is a smart kid too, often speaking in terms not even his parents can follow.
Eventually, a new infant is indeed created, leaving Junior and Tulip in big trouble. They agree to try delivering the child to the Gardner family without Hunter’s knowledge but as you can imagine, all sorts of obstacles arise and zaniness promptly ensue.
For instance, our heroes plus the baby end themselves up in the clutches of a wolf pack led by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, and they also face an army of penguins, all while being pursued by Pigeon Toady (Stephen Kramer Glickman), a pigeon and Cornerstone employee who knows of what Junior and Tulip have done. The film also features Jennifer Aniston and Ty Burrell as Nate’s parents, who are in disagreement about the idea of another child in the family, and Danny Trejo as a robust and crazed stork, responsible for the event that caused the baby delivery business to shut down in the first place.
The voice-over work in general is surprisingly good considering the lack of trained voice actors in the cast. Though I guess Kelsey Grammer might qualify given his many years on The Simpsons, and indeed, he does the best job of the bunch. This is a man who could read every entry of the Fifty Shades series and, well, they would still be objective garbage but at least Kelsey Grammer would be reading them out loud. That’s pretty cool, right?
Where Storks shines most is in its animation department; not just the detailing of the textures or the appealing designs of the characters (my only complaint there is that the storks look more like seagulls), but the energy and timing of the physical comedy. I’ve heard people compare the slapstick in this movie to such greats as Tom and Jerry and The Looney Tunes, to which I mostly respond noddingly. There is some dialogue-driven humor to balance it out as well and while a few of these gags are noticeably by-the-numbers, Storks does offer some unpredictable zingers of a more subtle and edgy variety too. It’s never Lego Movie-great but you can tell many of the same people were involved.
I’m surprised as the rest of you but I’m giving Storks a mild 4/5. Its timing is just as immaculate in the line delivery as in the slapstick, its characters are a riot, the plot can get remarkably moving whenever the tempo allows it, and the visuals are lovely on the eyes. It is amusing enough to entertain kids but I get a feeling that it will be most loved by adults for its wit and choice of jokes. Who knows, someone who is an adult in physique only might even produce a piece of perverted fan art or two? The sky’s the limit when you deal with storks.