The word stork brings to mind one of two things. One is a white bird with gangly legs living in tide pools and marshes worldwide. The other is a bird who carries a white bundle in its mouth and delivers it to families—often with the phrase, “Congratulations. You’re a mother.” When parents want to avoid the talk with their kids about where babies come from, the stork comes up. Sometimes, we even celebrate a new arrival to the world by placing a sign in the person’s front yard, often with—you guessed it—a stork on the front. It is in this conversation that directors Nicholas Stoller and Doug Sweetland bring the public an animated feature called Storks. Although it suffers from believability in places, it is laugh-out-loud funny and can be an effective way to discuss family and finding one’s place in the world with kids.
The concept of the film is fairly simple: Storks are pretty good at delivering things, but got out of the baby business when a mishap occurred with a package. With megalomaniacal Hunter (voice of Kelsey Grammer) at the controls of the company, he transformed it into cornerstore.com, a massive delivery company reminiscent of Amazon.com. The storks are really good at their job—so much so that Junior (voice of Andy Samberg) just completed his one millionth delivery. His reward is to become boss of the company (said by Hunter in a way that blows one’s mind). There is one catch—he has to fire Tulip (voiced by Katie Crown)–the package ‘mishap’ from earlier who’s now a teenager and extremely klutzy–and get her off the mountain. But Junior can’t do it, delegating her to the letter writing department—a dark area of the factory that hasn’t been utilized in eighteen years. Tulip proceeds to nearly go crazy by herself—until a letter arrives.
That letter was written by a kid named Nate (voiced by Anton Starkman), who desperately wants a baby brother with ninja skills. He also wants attention from his parents (voiced by Ty Burrell and Jennifer Aniston), but they’re so focused on their at-home real estate job and electronic contraptions that they barely give him the time of day. When he mentions the idea of a brother to them, both laugh. Nate’s letter about a baby brother gets into the hands of Tulip, and before Junior can stop her, she’s placed it in a machine that creates an adorable, pink-haired baby.
Storks then shifts to Junior and Tulip—two characters that seem diametrically opposite—teaming up to get the baby to Nate’s parents. Along the way, they meet a wolf pack (its leaders voiced by Key and Peele), nasty penguins (featuring the quietest brawl ever put to film), and a reclusive bird named Jasper (voiced by Danny Trejo). The joy in a film of this nature is getting to the conclusion—even if it’s partially telegraphed along the way—and it’s a pretty good one.
The film is incredibly funny and creative at points, such as when the wolf pack decides to transform a la the Wonder Twins into some impressive contraptions. Grammer’s Hunter is fiendishly cruel to chickadees and even had his office made out of glass to torture his flock of employees (Fun Fact: Grammer had the line, “I’m not a stork—I’m a crane” in the film [referring to his role on Frasier], but it was deleted).
Storks doesn’t really clear up the confusion between storks delivering kids and/or parents having them, but kids won’t care due to the jokes, sight gags, and fast-paced nature of the movie. However, since the film is about family, discovering one’s place in the world, and (yes) babies, I think it’s a good idea for parents to have a discussion about the film with them afterward. There will be things to talk about; that’s for sure!
Near the end, Junior gathers the storks from cornerstore.com and gives them a mission statement to follow: “Make a plan. Stick to the plan. Always deliver!” This sure sounds like something God would say. After all, when he created the world, he had a plan in mind when Adam and Eve were caught off-guard by the serpent’s temptation. Falling into sin, there would be one (Jesus) who would eventually redeem the world through his death and return to life from a crucifixion. The time between is recounted in the Old Testament—a time of warfare, slavery, mistakes aplenty, and miracles galore. All through that time, God stuck to his plan even when he could’ve given up on his creation and walked away permanently. And he will deliver in the end!
(NOTE: There is a mini-feature preceding Storks called ‘The Master.’ It’s a tease for a Lego Ninjago film coming out next fall and features a karate master and a chicken that wreaks havoc during the filming of a commercial. It’s quite funny.)
Special features include “Storks: Guide to Your New Baby,” a new animated short starring Pigeon Toady; the aforementioned “The Master”; the music video for Jason Derulo’s “Kiss the Sky”; and deleted scenes.