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The comedic powerhouses behind the latest Warner Bros. animated feature, Storks, were noticeably giddy on Saturday morning as they paraded across the cotton-candy blue carpet outside Westwood’s Regency Village Theater for the film’s world premiere. For the creators, like co-director and bona fide artistic “genius” (according to several members of the cast) Nicholas Stoller, the project has been four years in the making.
“That’s a long time. I could have become a doctor,” Stoller joked. “I could have learned a foreign language, like, really well.”
Instead, Stoller came up with Storks, a heartwarming and uniquely clever story that plays on one of childhood’s most pressing questions: Where do babies come from? The film follows the employees of a once-thriving, now-foreclosed “baby factory,” where storks who used to deliver tiny bundles of googly-eyed joy now deliver packages for an Amazon-esque online retail giant called Cornerstore.com.
Despite its outlandish premise, Storks is a tear-jerker, which isn’t entirely surprising considering that its storyline was born out of distinctly emotional circumstances. Stoller revealed that the idea for the film was at least partially informed by his own experience with fertility woes. “It was really hard for my wife and I to have my younger child,” Stoller said. “So I wanted to tell a story that at least had that as part of it.” To do that, he tapped animation aficionado Doug Sweetland, who’s making his feature directorial debut with Storks and calls it a “dream come true,” as well as an impressive Rolodex of funny people, including Andy Samberg, Katie Crown, Jennifer Aniston, Ty Burrell, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele.
Stoller, who is known for his work on raunchier films (although, to that, he responded, “This is a pretty dirty movie,” without missing a beat) like the Neighbors sequel earlier this year, said that all the films he’s directed have been “really personal.” This seems far-fetched, given that his repertoire is stacked with teenage-boy comedies (think: Sex Tape, Forgetting Sarah Marshall), but it turns out that Stoller actually has managed to create absurdly funny — and sometimes even PG-rated — movies that loosely mirror his own experiences.
“In a weird way, the first Neighbors is about having my first kid and being like, ‘Oh my God. My life is destroyed,’” Stoller said. “And this is about having your second, where you really see how fast it’s all going and how much you appreciate it.”
But the most notable difference, according to Stoller, between directing a Neighbors-type film and directing Storks is that “you can’t make wiener jokes or drop F-bombs.”
And yet, the humor in Storks still lands — made clear by the eruptions of laughter (from children and adults alike) throughout the theater during the premiere. The sharp, quippy back-and-forth between the characters feels like the stuff of SNL comedy sketches.
Katie Crown — who was only performing temporary scratch vocals for the film when Stoller decided to permanently hire her — said that the authenticity of the characters and their humor is a direct result of significant collaboration behind the scenes. “We were definitely able to bring in our own ideas and improvisation,” she said of the days she spent in the voiceover booth with Samberg devising the movie’s quick, off-the-cuff humor (or “weird stuff,” as Samberg called it). “There’s a lot of ourselves in those characters,” Crown said.
Peele, who is certainly no stranger to sketch comedy (a career trajectory for which he credits his “short attention span” when it comes to acting), said performing in the movie was a lot like making an episode of Key and Peele, but “with much better language.” He said that Key and himself approached their Storks characters intuitively, and played off of one another until the characters’ personas organically developed. And he seems to believe that this work paid off.
Peele, along with the rest of the Storks crew, was quite visibly proud of the final product. “This is the funniest stuff I’ve seen in a long time,” said Peele. “I think this could be one of the funniest movies of the year.”
Storks hits theaters Sept. 23.
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