I don’t normally do this, but I’ve just seen a movie so good, so under-appreciated and I want to say a little bit about it because it’s still in theaters right now. Like you could look up times right now, go see it (it’s only an hour-and-half) and skip this poorly written review altogether. It wouldn’t even hurt my feelings. Go ahead. Just take my word for…if you put any currency in my words.
That being said, I’m going to get to this (quickie) review for a movie you may or may not have guessed is Storks, a some-what glossed over animated film last week. It came in somewhere around 60% on RT as well. To be fair, it came in second at the box office the week of its release but I’m seeing very little reaction via the interwebs and thought I’d do my (VERY, VERY, VERY, VVVVVVVVVEEEEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRRRYYYYYYYYYY) small contribution and help spread the word about this little gem of a movie.
“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.” – IMDb.com
I love how unapologetically weird this movie is. I mean, I feel like you could also surmise that by either A) reading that synopsis or B) just watching the trailer. Ostensibly a road movie, Storks sports some truly weird, at times confounding, pit stops in its relatively breezy runtime. As far as themes, I’m sure there are messages of “follow your dreams” and “families are what we make them,” and that’s all well and fine. There are some actually moving moments to be had here. Look, there’s doesn’t really an emphasis on things like hefty themes or deep interpretation in family movies. At least for me. Sure, it’s nice to have them around but the bare minimum can suffice as long as the journey fun or at the very least engaging.
My main take-away from Storks is what joyously bonkers time I had as Junior (Andy Samberg) and Tulip (Katie Crown) attempt to navigate the sexless world it creates. Hazards include a pack of wolves led by an Alpha and Beta (voiced by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele respectively) as well as Pigeon Toady (Stephen Kramer Glickman), an odd pigeon co-worker of Junior’s that really defies logical explanation.
It’s consistently funny (always a plus), moves at nearly break-neck speed and is so weird adults will most likely have as much fun as their kids. It’s the perfect family package.
This is co-director Nicholas Stoller’s (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek, Neighbors , etc.) first foray into animation and the second feature for (other) co-director Doug Sweetland, a long-time workhorse for Pixar yet the two already come off as long-time veterans of the medium. The animation is stunning, and the physical comedy harkens to the days of the “rubber bones” approach utilized in the classic Looney Tunes’ days of old.
The cast is nothing to balk at either. I’m convinced some of the actors recorded at the same time (a practice that isn’t typically the case in voice acting) given the quick yet steady pace (particularly in scenes with Samberg and Crown as well as Key and Peele obviously) dialogue moves. They feel and move like actual dialogue and that stood out to me on more than one occasion.
Samberg, whose done his fair share of voice jobs, is a perfect fit for this zany world as his unhinged, borderline random comedic delivery is allowed to soar unrestrained by the rules of reality.
The real find here however (on the acting side) is Katie Crown, a voice actress I highly suspect/hope we’ll be hearing a lot more in the future.
I’m aware of Crown primarily through her voice work on shows like Total Drama, Bob’s Burgers and some small, yet noticeable roles on Adventure Time. I think it’s fair to say she isn’t exactly a house hold name. She meets Samberg tit-for-tat at every opportunity, moving ahead of him on more than one occasion. It’s not often you see actual voice actors given beefy roles like this in multi-million dollar studio features like this. I assume actresses like Jennifer Lawrence or Brie Larson were considered and Crown may have been ultimately chosen in favor of budget or she could have been a replacement OR maybe, JUST MAYBE our directors picked her for her considerable talent. I’d like that last instance to be the case as well Crown’s casting to represent a recurring trend in which voice actors and actresses being recognized and given the chance to shine on the big screen as much as the do on the small one.
All this praise isn’t to say the movie is perfect by any means. It’s world may be unique and wonderfully realized, but the plot fairly thin and low-stakes even with all of its set-pieces. I’d if I was even aware of what the general stakes were at certain points. Like, there is a throw-away line about why storks not delivering babies anymore as A) there wasn’t a real revenue gain (?) and B) there are many other ways of making babies. So…what purpose did they really serve? Is it bad for the world as a whole that they stopped? Do they only deliver human babies? Is there world, at large, aware of the storks still? Did they forget? Why? Where do babies come from now? Best not to overthink it, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t asking myself these dumb questions. And it doesn’t take a genius to eventually see parallels between this and Monster’s Inc., particularity since I didn’t until the third act. Also when we occasionally leave Junior, Tulip and their ward for the family that requested the baby in question the momentum takes a noticeable turn.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say their boring, but their antics certainly don’t meet the same level of joy we see over on the other side of the plot.
I’m not sure if Storks is a classic in the making or not, but I do plan on revisiting it. It’s nearest comparison, in my opinion, would be Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (funny that Phil Lord and Chris Miller serve as executive directors here). There’s nothing revolutionary here. As I said, the stakes are somewhat minimal (they’re even unclear at points) but I kind of liked that. It’s a cartoon after all. Not every animated movie needs to have the lofty ambitions of any given Studio Ghibli or Pixar feature. Nor do they have to devolve into the general laziness we see on display over at Illumination…
(Why do they need to be animals for a movie about a fucking singing competition? It’s not like Zootopia where that was a critical element. No, they had a boring script and added animals later.)
You can have your cake and eat it too by delivering something smart AND stupid, and if that was the goal of Storks, I’d argue it passed with FLYING colors.