Imaginatively Absurd Storks Flies High
Storks no longer deliver babies. Thanks to a mishap 18 years prior, wise authoritarian Hunter (voiced by Kelsey Grammer) decided he and his brethren needed to go into a different line of work, the entire species delivering packages instead of infants now, letting humanity come up with their offspring on their own without their help.
In that time, said mistake, known around the delivery warehouse as the Orphan Tulip (Katie Crown), has matured into a smart, inquisitive teenager who just so happens to have a knack for creating chaos with every step. Now legally an adult, Hunter decides it is time to let the young woman go, ordering his number one delivery speed demon Junior (Andy Samberg) to fire her. But, knowing it is her birthday, he can’t find the words to do it, instead thinking he can reassign Tulip to the mailroom in the now defunct baby making factory and no one will be any the wiser.
Needless to say, things do not work out as planned. Not only does Tulip accidentally produce a baby, but Junior breaks one of his wings while trying to stop the magical machinery that creates them from doing its work. From there, the two are forced to join forces as they attempt to deliver the infant to its new parents, hoping to do so before Hunter finds out and does who knows what to the both of them as well as the unnamed newborn girl. It’s as straightforwardly weird as all that sounds, and it’s easy to imagine a ton of flustered parents having a series of semi-embarrassed conversations with their own little ones over where real babies come from once they leave the theatre.
The fact the new animated comedy Storks is anything other than absurd is hardly shocking; that it’s as supremely entertaining, as messy and as nonsensical as it ultimately might be, certainly is. Screenwriter and co-director Nicholas Stoller has created something here that combines the rambunctious spirit and unbridled wholesomeness of his two Muppets adventures, The Muppets and Muppets Most Wanted, with the gleeful chaotic anarchy of his more adult fair, like Get Him to the Greek or Neighbors. There is a devil-may-care eccentricity to the story that’s giddily appealing, and even when the story itself descended into nonsensical pandemonium, the charming spell it had somehow managed to cast upon me never ebbed or faded, not for one single solitary second.
Stuff that works does so brilliantly. At one point, Junior, Tulip and the baby end up in the middle of a pack of hungry wolves (the two alphas portrayed by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele), and the inspired imagination driving their escape, as well as the antics of the chasing four-legged horde, is simply sensational. There’s also some great stuff involving a baby brother-wanting youngster (Anton Starkman) and his two workaholic parents (Jennifer Aniston, Ty Burrell), the quiet, elegantly vivid life lessons the latter two learn both humorous and heartwarming.
But the reason the movie works nearly as well as it does are the characters of Junior and Tulip. Not only are they perfectly voiced by Samberg and Crown, they are also ingeniously written by Stoller. There is a complex intelligence to their respective arcs that’s natural and unforced, the pair’s relationship slowly becoming all the stronger and more worth rooting for because of this. They are the driving force that helps keep the story continually soaring above the clouds, the resolution that Stoller comes up with to cement their newfound friendship maybe even bring a small tear to my eye, provoking an emotional response from me I can’t say I anticipated.
There’s plenty of annoying stuff, to be sure, not the least which is a secondary side character, the Pigeon Toady (Stephen Kramer Glickman), who gets more unbearably obnoxious as the film progresses. I was also not a giant fan of the seemingly senseless carnage that transpires during a climactic set piece, while Hunter’s reasons for being so intractably against babies and their delivery is never clearly stated or fleshed out as it potentially should have been.
But who am I kidding? I liked Storks. It made me laugh. It brought a tear to my eye. It’s filled to the brim with visual delights. Stoller, co-directing with one-time Pixar stalwart Doug Sweetland (director of the Oscar-nominated animated short Presto), displays his typically steady hand, moving from one idea and gag to the next one with breakneck, if still reasonably naturalistic, speed. The movie worked for me, and even when things looked like they were about to spiral out of control, there was just something about it that kept me interested to see what would happen next. It’s September’s first unforeseen surprise, and even if parents might end up having to answer a few unsettling questions about babies and their origins this is still an animated comedy the entire family should undoubtedly enjoy.
– Review reprinted courtesy of the SGN in Seattle
Film Rating: 3 (out of 4)