Here is another example of an ambitious animated family comedy with a bizarre premise.
Storks is an animated family comedy film from Warner Animation Group, the animated subdivision of Warner Brothers that brought us The Lego Movie in 2014. Both films take high concept ideas and stretch them out into feature length film. Not many were expecting the The Lego Movie to be successful, but not only did it become a box office success, but it has become arguably one of the most acclaimed animated films of recent times.
In the universe of this film, storks were responsible for delivering babies to childless families through a letter system. They stopped for good after one stork refused to deliver his baby, and it was decided that storks would strictly deliver packages, under the name “Cornerstore.com” (imagine Federal Express meets Amazon.com). Enter our main character, a stork named Junior (voiced by Andy Samberg), who is next in line to run the delivery company. When a baby girl appears as the result of a delivery request, Junior now must deliver her in secret, accompanied by the company’s only human employee, Tulip (voiced by Katie Crown).
The idea for a film based on storks in today’s realm of animated family entertainment seems too standard and uninventive. While it can no doubt be profitable due to its target demographic, it does give the sense that the well has dried up in terms of concepts. With that being said, while Storks does not exactly reach the same heights as The Lego Movie, it manages to be better than the premise suggests, and much of that is due to its style of comedy.
Interesting to note is that the writer/co-director is Nicholas Stoller, who helmed credible comedy films such as Forgetting Sarah Marshall and the Neighbors series. One thing that those films showcase is Stoller’s ability to write and direct banter between characters, and here, he shows a significant improvement on that skill. The smooth chemistry between the characters in the film, particularly between Junior and Tulip, helps amplify the effect of the comedic banter, as well as the effect of the action. Two of the major comedic highlights include a pack of wolves that form multiple transportation vehicles while chasing our heroes, and a fight between our heroes and an army of penguins, all of which they try to keep quiet as to not disturb the sleeping baby.
On paper, these ideas do not sound that funny, but the clever inventive direction and the high-speed energy of animation, bring these gags to life. The high kinetic speed of the animation is so similar to DreamWorks Animations’ Madagascar series, that at times, you would swear that DreamWorks was involved at one point. With all of this being said, though, how is the film at its core?
The element of the film that is least effective is its story. While not bad by any means, the story does not hold up compared to the comedic scenes and one-liners. It is a shame because it has a pretty good message regarding what makes an authentic family, and while some of that message comes though, it could have been made a little stronger. The possible reason for this could be a lack of quiet moments. Family films usually need to let the emotions of both the audience and the film’s characters resonate. The majority of Storks is too focused on delivering its one-liners and gags, that when it does get to a relatively quiet moment, it doesn’t stay for long.
In the end, however, Storks does manage to work on its own terms. For a film that seemed so standard on its surface, there are plenty of moments funny enough to put a smile on your face. The story is a bit standard, but the comedic scenes, as well as the chemistry between the leads, make the film worth a view.