FIND YOUR FLOCK (FAMILY)
Under the umbrella of Warner Bros. Pictures, Warner Bros. Animation has moved slowly “under the radar’ from animated powerhouses such as Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks. The animation studio created some modest features, including Quest for Camelot, The Iron Giant, and Osmosis Jones, but ultimately the studio fell short, while other animated studios were on the rise (i.e. DreamWorks and Pixar). Throughout various shake-ups and mergers within its parenting companies, Warner Bros. Animation was mostly dormant, producing only a handful of smaller projects through different media outlets). It was until 2014 rolled around that the company, under the revamped name Warner Animation Group, the studio was back in action, producing the critically acclaimed animated feature The LEGO Movie, which helped push the studio for future projects, including the upcoming The LEGO Batman Movie and untitled sequel to THE LEGO Movie. Before those movies get released, Warner Animation Group and director Nicholas Stoller and Doug Sweetland present their new film Storks. Does this newest animated film deliver its package or does it get lost within somewhere along the way?
On the faraway place of Stork Mountain, the bird population was once responsible for the overall creation and distribution of infants to parents who’ve sent in letter requesting a child. However, an incident 18 years ago that involves a fellow stork named Jasper (Danny Trejo) and his desperation to keep a baby led to a full shutdown of the stork’s baby factory distribution. Now, the storks (and its factory) is used for Corner Store.com, an Amazon-style warehouse overseen by their stork boss Hunter (Kelsey Grammar), who’s ready to Junior (Adam Samberg), the company’s top delivery bird, the new head honcho. Unfortunately, Junior’s first assignment is to fire the human named Tulip (Katie Crown), who’s been orphaned by the company since the whole “Jasper” incident, losing her parental coordinates tracker to bring her to her rightful family. Finding it difficult to dismiss the human, Junior instead sticks Tulip in the unused and dormant mail room, where she promptly enters a letter into the “baby-making” machine that was written by young Nate Gardner (Anton Starkman), who wants a little brother and seeks attention from his workaholic parents, Sarah and Henry Gardner (Jennifer Aniston and Ty Burrell). Now stuck with a baby infant (they name it Diamond Destiny), Junior and Tulip hit the road to bring the child to Nate, facing several trials along the way, including a pack of wolves and the vicious Pigeon Toady (Stephen Kramer Glickman), as well as falling in love with their little passenger along the way.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
As I stated above, Warner Bros. Animation has always played “second fiddle” to all other animated studios (at the time when they were producing movies). Yes, some of their movies were iconic and memorable (i.e. The Iron Giant), but they lacked the theatrical acclaim from critics and moviegoers alike for the studio to gain monetary momentum. Of course, that all changed when The LEGO Movie came out, gaining the much deserve credit to the studio behind (the now Warner Animation Group) as well as its critical praise. I personally loved The LEGO Movie and I can’t wait to see it sequel as well as its intended spin offs films. I remember when I first saw the trailer for Storks, I kind of brushed it off as another “generic” cartoon from a secondary animated studio. However, as I kept on seeing the trailers every time I went to the movies (which is quite a lot), I started to gain a somewhat interest in seeing. After seeing the movie, I felt that Storks, while not in the same caliber of a Disney or Pixar movie, is still an entertaining with a good fundamental message and colorful characters.
Storks is directed by Nicholas Stoller and Doug Sweetland. While Stoller is known for directing Forgetting Sarah Marshall, the two Neighbors movies (Neighbors and Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising) as well as the two recent Muppet films (The Muppets and Muppets: Most Wanted), Sweetland makes his directorial feature debut, previous been an animator for several Pixar movies and their shorts. The film’s script is also actually written by Stoller and does tackle some important topics and themes in Storks. While it isn’t ideal social commentary like Zootopia or overcoming a personal disability like in Finding Dory, the story’s message context of family is a strong one, especially speaking to the modern age of parenting where some “working” parents don’t make time for the children. The lessons learned by the film’s end helps elevate Stork’s side story, which involves Nate and his parents, and something that could be felt in its intended viewing audience.
To me, the film’s humor was actually pretty good. Yes, there are some jokes that are “hit” or “miss”, but I found myself laughing at lot with the Stork’s comedy. The film’s animation is also pretty good, offering up a bright palette of colors with some unique looking design via characters or locales. It’s not super-hyper real like a Disney or Pixar movie, but it’s definitely pleasing to the eye and of quality work in animation. Lastly, the film does move at “brisk” pace. There are a couple of detours from the main path (for Junior and Tulip to follow), but, even those are quick side-adventures. I mean the film is only 89 minutes long!
Storks isn’t without its shortcomings. First, while his jokes and gags are funny and laughable, it does (at various points) takes its jokes a bit too far and somewhat repetitive (especially with the wolves when they reappear again towards the end of the second act). Honestly, it really depends on what “tickles your funny bone” in an animated feature as Storks’s comedy is more slapstick than sophisticated. Next, the story (at times) can be a bit ludicrous, spending your disbelief with a few bits that make “no sense” whatsoever. Personally, this didn’t bother me as much (heck…. it’s an animated cartoon), but, for some, it might be “out putting”. Lastly, certain side characters, including the whole “Nate” story, could’ve been expanded upon a bit. I know I just praised the feature for moving at a “brisk” pace, but Stoller and Sweetland could’ve added an extra five to ten minutes to the film’s final cut to expand upon their movie’s story and / or side characters.
Just like a lot of animated movies, Storks enlist several big and / or known names stars to voice and to bring their colorful characters to life. Of course, the film’s two main characters (Junior and Tulip) lead the charge with Adam Samberg and Katie Crown. Samberg, mostly known for playing his goofy man-child persona in such films and TV projects, gives that same quality in Storks, which fits perfectly in an animated feature. Thus, Samberg’s Junior is a lively and character, filled with some entertaining and certainly provides a lot of truly “humorous” parts in the film. Acting as a foil to Samberg’s character is Katie Crown’s Tulip. Crown, known for her works in various cartoon shows, does a great job as the Tulip, portraying the character as a kind-hearted and optimistic individual who is longing to find her long- lost family. The two actors play off each other nicely, with each one selling their own respective characters’ goofiness, determination, self-doubts along the way. As the “third” component to make up this trio is the little baby “Diamond Destiny”, who really doesn’t talk or have much of a “animated personality”, but she definitely is an adorable baby (even for a cartoon), especially her infectious-like laugh and suppose “ninja” skills.
The supporting players in Storks are talented bunch and do get the job done, whether by plot points or by humorous bits. In the “Nate” storyline, young child actor Anton Starkman does an effective job as the youthful Nate as well as Jennifer Aniston and Ty Burrell, who respectfully play Nate’s overworking parents (Sarah and Henry). Of the animal characters, Kelsey Grammar voices Hunter, the CEO of Corner Store.com, and brings that authoritative figure to the character, despite him being sort of a one-dimensional character. On the other hand, Danny Trejo’s character Jasper does have a bit more of a well-rounded story arc (not fully complete though) as he tries to “right” his own wrongs. Then there’s Stephen Kramer Glickman who voices Pidgeon Toady, who is, more or less, in the movie to bring the laughs, which he does with his weird speech pattern / vocals as well as to further plot at various points. Lastly, the famous duo of Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele voice the crazy leaders of the wolf pack (Alpha Wolf and Beta Wolf), who want to keep Diamond Destiny for their own.
As an added bonus, there’s an animated short titled “The Master” that’s shown in front of Storks. Basically, it’s a LEGO Ninjago short and was probably created to help build some hype for the upcoming The LEGO Ninjago Movie (due out on September 22nd, 2017). It’s a little and cute cartoon short that has a few chuckle moments.
The hilarious misadventures of Junior and Tulip and their mission to deliver a baby is the main narrative found in the Warner Animation Group’s newest film Storks. Director Nicholas Stoller and Doug Sweetland’s latest animated romp does deliver a solid feature that’s elevated by a humorous writing, colorful characters, fun voice acting, and loving message about family. Personally, I liked it as it held my attention and kept me laughing throughout. It does a have few problems, but, regardless of minor ones, it’s definitely an entertaining and family movie that’s accessible to all ages. Thus, it would recommend this film to be seeing as it is a great kids’ movie to see, a safe bet especially the 6 to 9 year olds. All in all, it may not be “best animated” film of the year or the most emotionally driven like other animated features of 2016 (Zootopia or Finding Dory), but Storks delivers its package (the film) on-time for some zany “cartoon” fun.
3.9 Out of 5 (Recommended)
Released On: September 23rd, 2016
Reviewed On: September 24th, 2016
Storks is rated PG for mild action and some thematic elements