Storks deliver babies…or at least they used to. Now they deliver packages for global internet giant Cornerstore.com. Junior, the company's top delivery stork, is about to be promoted when he accidentally activates the Baby Making Machine, producing an adorable and wholly unauthorized baby girl. Desperate to deliver this bundle of trouble before the boss gets wise, Junior and his friend Tulip, the only human on Stork Mountain, race to make their first-ever baby drop – in a wild and revealing journey that could make more than one family whole and restore the storks' true mission in the world.
Perhaps the biggest concern one would have with 'Storks' is the fact that somewhere out there is a poor, beleaguered parent who will have to either explain the birds and the bees to their child ahead of schedule, or lie to their child for a few more years that yes, babies do in fact come from a massive, wacky, Rube Goldberg device in the sky and are delivered to your doorstep by gangly, competitive, blue-collar tech bro birds, as well as maintain the illusion that no new babies were created during the tech boom of the early aughts because said birds were subsidized by an Amazon.com stand in.
The people well past the age of The Talk, however, shouldn't have too much trouble suspending their disbelief as 'Storks' just runs with that core conceit in favor of a breezy animated flick that has more of a heart at its core than anything about its trailers would have you believe.
To be fair, the premise, on paper, does the film no favors. Andy Samberg plays a stork named Junior who's managed to go far enough in the new delivery company to earn the favor of his preening boss, Hunter (Kelsey Grammer). The only task standing in the way is having to fire Tulip, a human child who, due to a botched delivery, ended up permanently in the storks' care, screwing up production wherever she goes. In the firing attempt, Junior and Tulip accidentally reactivate the long dormant baby production line, producing a single, adorable pink-haired child who, by requirement, needs to be delivered by the duo.
Where 'Storks' manages to surprise is in the details. The expected slapstick hijinks aside, the relationship between Junior and Tulip is ostensibly the story of a couple dealing with the trials and hesitations that come with caring for a new baby, which seems like it might be a gross, bestial tack to take, if not for the complete removal of sex from the equation of life in the 'Storks' universe altogether. It's all in the dialogue, the reactions of the two towards very typical parenting discussions, played not so much straight as exaggerated for peak comedy, maintaining the emotional reality.
It sounds like it'd be a hard balancing act for any movie to maintain, until you realize 'Storks' is the brainchild of Nicholas Stoller, who's been striking that exact balance in his work on the two most recent Muppet films, the 'Neighbors' films, 'Get Him To The Greek', and 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall'. While not exactly classics, Stoller has been quietly making a career in films smarter and more emotionally honest than they let on, and 'Storks' is no exception.
Of course, this is still a film whose target audience is kids, and there's still plenty of kinetic fun for them to latch onto, but even here, some finer comedy chops are being employed, from a workplace drama being entirely acted out in a single room by Tulip, to a climactic fight with a group of penguins carried out in near-total silence in order to not wake a sleeping baby. The big gutlaugh winner is a den of wolves whose alphas--voiced by Keegan Michael Key & Jordan Peele--are funny enough on their own, but also employ an over-the-top hilarious running gimmick when chasing the baby down that wouldn't be out of place in the Golden Age of Looney Tunes.
The film teases on some heavier truths about the nature of parenting. However, the main roadtrip plot with Tulip and Junior takes precedence, to the detriment of a few plot threads better equipped to handle such a thing, like the fumbled B-plot focusing on the family whose neglected son wished for the baby, a fumble that effectively reduces Jennifer Aniston to a glorified cameo. Still, the film hits its marks more often than not, and in a landscape that too often settles for so much less, the effort to build something--ANYTHING--just under the surface is vastly appreciated.
As expected, 'Storks', for the most part, upholds all the benchmarks for a CG animated film on Blu-ray. The film is working off of a more naturalistic color pallette than most films of its sort, however, with soft natural lighting at sunsets/sunrises contrasting with dingy caves and disused factory floors. As such, there is a tendency for characters to sometimes merge with the ambience in darker sections, but it's a safe bet this was a sacrifice to the natural lighting gods more than a deliberate screw-up in the encode. Even still, when the film chooses colors to pop--the baby's pink hair, and the short glimpses we get of the (ahem) baby-making facility especially--they're wonderfully vibrant.
Considering how busy many of the scenes are here, one might expect a more dynamic mix, but 'Storks' is strangely a little front loaded in that regard, with only scant moments, like a waterfall chase, bringing the rear speakers to life. Still, the sound itself is clearly defined and does handle the cacophony rather well. The silent penguin fight mentioned is one of those moments where the film has to handle an extremely quiet, but still busy mix and still remain audieble to sell its best gags, and the track handles the workload without a problem.
While nobody should've expected this to get anything other than kid-friendly fluff, 'Storks' bonus features do suffer from a dearth of actual features on the writing and actors. Still, there are enough additional laughs to be found to make them worth a look.
Commentary (Co-directors Nicholas Stoller, Doug Sweetland, and crew): A mostly tech-focused commentary. Lots of gaps and callouts for random teams who defiitely deserve props, but would defiitely have preferred to hear more about the story. Unfortunately, the extent of that seems dispensed upfront with Stoller explaining the origins of the story as being quite a bit more personal than expected.
Storks: Guide To Your New Baby (HD: 2:08): A short hosted by Pigeon Toady (one of the funniest characters in the film, and also one hell of a great pun name) about baby care that goes wrong at every turn. It's an all-too-brief blast of pure mayhem, but worthwhile.
The Master: A LEGO Ninjago Short (HD: 5:18): A short introducing a master martial artist (played by Jackie Chan) being tormented in his own movie by a treacherous chicken (voiced, for some unfathomable reason, by 'Broad City's Abbi Jacobson). Basically an extended trailer for the 'Lego Ninjago Movie' hitting later this year. The animation is pretty. The short itself is just okay.
'Storks' "Kiss The Sky" Music Video (HD: 3:46): Basically, the entire movie re-edited down to 4 minutes, set to an inoffensive Jason Derulo dance track.
Deleted Scenes (with Commentary) (HD: 10:05): Still entirely in storyboards, there's actually some comedy gold left on the cutting room floor here, including a completely different 'Incredibles'-like opener, a therapy session with the wolves, a whole segment involving vultures voiced by Brian Posehn, and whether intentional or not, probably the greatest 'Frasier'-based pun ever written.
Outtakes (HD: 2:14): Once again, all too short, but two miutes of fully animated outtakes and riffs. The Key and Peele outtakes are the best. I do miss when Pixar movies did these.
'Storks' is destined to become one of those films families find later then lament they didn't throw down to see in the theater. It has enough material to please anyone who gives it a fair shot on multiple levels. More than anything, it cements Nicholas Stoller as a guy able to elevate weak concepts above their station. It is absolutely worth seeing.