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Despite its ages-old association with delivering bouncing bundles of joy, the noble stork has been sadly underrepresented onscreen.
Other than the one who dispatched Mrs. Jumbo’s big-eared baby in 1941’s Dumbo and the Groucho-esque Vlasic pickles mascot from the ‘70s (“That’s the best-tastin’ pickle I ever hoid!”), the animated flock has been mighty scarce in movies.
RELEASE DATE Sep 23, 2016
Setting out to correct the oversight, co-directors Nicholas Stoller and Doug Sweetland deliver big time with Storks, a fittingly buoyant, delightfully madcap animated romp from executive producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller about an over-achieving stork who’s forced to embark on a road trip with a flame-haired orphaned teen and some precious cargo. While it doesn’t manage to hit the gleefully inspired heights of Lord’s and Miller’s The Lego Movie — let’s be honest, what has? — the team’s irreverent brand of humor is very much in play here, combined with a measured, organic sweetness that inescapably goes with the territory.
The sophomore effort from the Warner Animation Group, energetically brought home by a terrific voice cast headed by Andy Samberg, Katie Crown, Jennifer Aniston and Ty Burrell, will have no problem tickling audiences, both young and old.
Having long ago shuttered its once-fertile baby-delivery service, Stork Mountain has profitably reinvented itself as an Amazon-size, online package delivery business, Cornerstore.com, where ace employee Junior (Samberg) is up for a major promotion from brash, imposing CEO Hunter (Kelsey Grammer). The one thing standing in the way of getting a corner office is his having to fire the gung-ho but accident-prone orphan Tulip (Crown), a human who has been stuck with the storks since birth, still hoping to one day be connected with her intended family.
Speaking of family, back down in the suburbs, young Nate Gardner (Anton Starkman), feeling ignored by his workaholic realtor parents (Aniston and Burrell), finds an old baby-delivery brochure and writes a letter to Stork Mountain asking for a baby brother with ninja skills. The letter finds its way to Tulip, who inadvertently reactivates the dormant infant factory, necessitating a special delivery that won’t set off the suspicions of Hunter’s pint-size sycophant underling Pigeon Toady (hilariously voiced by comedian Stephen Kramer Glickman).
Stoller, who previously helmed the live-action comedy hits Neighbors and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, lends a similar tongue-in-cheek sensibility to his animated directorial debut, which he shares with Pixar veteran Sweetland (director of the Oscar-nominated short Presto.) At the same time, there’s an unmistakable Chuck Jones/Friz Freleng feel to some of those sidebar antics, in homage to WAG’s Looney Tunes roots.
While Stoller’s script follows a reasonably straightforward path, it’s one that encounters no shortage of offbeat inventiveness along the way, especially from a pack of shape-shifting wolves amusingly led by Alpha Wolf (Keegan-Michael Key) and Beta Wolf (Jordan Peele).
There’s a nice, snappy playfulness in the rapport between Samberg (who previously lent his voice to Lord and Miller’s Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs movies) and engaging newcomer Crown. That lively, back-and-forth vibe also extends to the Aniston/Burrell and Key/Peele dynamic, while tough guy Danny Trejo rounds out the key voice cast as Jasper, an outsize stork with a shadowy backstory.
Visually, the computer animation, produced by Sony Pictures Imageworks, while not stylistically stretching the traditional canvas along the lines of such other 2016 animated releases as Kubo and the Two Strings and Zootopia, is nevertheless vividly crisp and brightly rendered.
Accentuating the film’s core theme of family dynamics is a nurturing, understated score by brothers Mychael and Jeff Danna, who previously collaborated on Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur, which nicely bridges a pair of uplifting tracks by Jason Derulo (“Kiss the Sky”) and The Lumineers (“Holdin’ Out”).
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Production companies: Warner Animation Group, Ratpac/Dune Entertainment
Cast: Andy Samberg, Katie Crown, Jennifer Aniston, Ty Burrell, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Danny Trejo, Stephen Kramer Glickman
Directors: Nicholas Stoller, Doug Sweetland
Screenwriter: Nicholas Stoller
Producers: Brad Lewis, Nicholas Stoller
Executive producers: Glenn Ficarra, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, John Requa, Jared Stern
Editor: John Venzon
Composers: Mychael Danna, Jeff Danna
Casting director: Ruth Lambert
Rated PG, 86 minutes
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