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Friday, September 23, 2016

Movie Review: #Storks

Storks exceeds in cuteness but poops its diapers with a poor plot.

Review by Matt Cummings

We've witnessed a 2016 animated slate that's included the very good (Kubo and the Two Strings), the meh (Zoopotpia), and the truly awful (Norm of the North). For early Fall's Storks, we get something in the middle, filled with heartening moments, but disturbing in its overall premise.

In a world where storks like Junior (voiced by Andy Samberg) used to bring babies to homes, times have changed. After a delivery goes wrong - leaving the human Tulip (Katie Crown) without a home - the storks decide to enter the package delivery business. Over eighteen years, the company led by Hunter (Kelsey Grammer) has become a success, irregardless of Tulip's clumsy efforts to disrupt that. But for the human boy Nate (Anton Starkman), his desire for a brother leads him to write a letter to those very same storks, unaware of the company's new 'vision.' When Tulip accidentally starts the old baby-making machine, she produces a little girl that Junior must deliver. As Tulip tags along for the ride, the duo will realize that Baby's cuteness is their greatest strength, soothing even the vicious wolf pack (Key and Peale) with her big baby eyes, while Tulip struggles to locate her missing family using broken pieces of her tracking device.

Filled with a star-studded troupe of voice actors, Storks also features a venerated crew behind the camera, including Writer/Co-Director Nicholas Stoller and Producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller. And Storks also features some hilarious moments, especially when Key and Peale's wolves get going. In many ways, such genetics keeps things moving, even as its diaper fills up with two huge story gaps.

The real problem with Storks lies in its story. Essentially, it tackles two unpopular themes: unplanned pregnancies and babies that parents might no longer want. Throughout the film, we're led to believe that Baby is the only "order" and that the storks only need to deliver her before returning to package delivery; but it soon becomes apparent that hundreds of letters have been received over the years, which means that hundreds of parents are about to get children they may no longer want. I know that Stoller didn't envision such complications, but it illuminates a constant problem in film: the idea that we'll all "get it" regardless of the inconsistencies.

The unplanned pregnancy is another matter: when Nate tells mom and dad that he wants a baby brother, mom and dad tell him, "We're fine with one," which then sends the boy to mail the Storks. As the parents play along with Nate's construction project (another funny part in its wild ricketiness), we forget that the Gardeners don't really want another child. Of course, all of that changes when Baby arrives, but it's a truly diabolical concept. There's never a "I always wanted a little girl" conversation between Mr. and Mrs. Gardener: they just accept Baby as their own, in a scene that's a real tear-jerker. The epilogue is also incredibly heart-warming, but by then the damage has already been done. Parents will have a hard time rationalizing these issues to their older kids, but young ones will lap up the big eyes of our characters and the physical comedy behind Junior's performance.

Voice acting is very good, with Aniston and Burrell strangely playing smaller roles here. It's the story between Junior and Tulip that dominates Storks, and the young actress handles it very well. Crown's voice comes alive as the overly-positive Tulip, while Samberg's sixth run in an animated movie is perhaps his best. Tulip's story reflects a common theme of abandonment (or threat of) in children's animation, which when done correctly produces instant classics like Toy Story 2, Bambi, and even Mr. Peabody & Sherman. Storks does not fall into this category, but it's an enjoyable time, so long as you stay away from any logic about what you're actually watching.

Storks might be an early Fall surprise, based solely on its cuteness and a rather touching ending. But it's likely that parents will have a hard time wrapping their heads around the many negative connotations such as unwanted pregnancies and babies that parents asked for a long time ago. Kids will love the film, but might ask similar questions down the road. Be ready for that one.

Storks is rated PG for mild action and some thematic elements and has a runtime of 89 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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