So far, 2016 has been a very good year for animated films. There have been some stinkers for sure (“Norm of the North” and “The Wild Life”) but overall, most of this year’s animated offerings have ranged from decent to excellent. Last weekend, Warner Brothers Animation endeavored to keep the momentum going with the animated family film, “Storks.” While not equaling the quality of this summer’s “Kubo & the Two Strings” or “Finding Dory,” “Storks” holds its own as a fun, if uneven, family film with lots of heart and big laughs.
Storks are known in popular folklore for delivering babies. At the start of this film, the titular storks have not delivered babies in years, and instead deliver appliances for an Amazon-like delivery service called Cornerstore.com. This is, until dedicated delivery stork, Junior (Andy Samberg), and the orphaned human Tulip (Katie Crown), accidentally activate the long-dormant baby-making machine on Stork Mountain. The two then journey to deliver the baby to Sarah and Henry Gardner (Jennifer Aniston and Ty Burrell respectively), and their son Nate (Anton Starkman), before they and the baby are discovered by head Stork Hunter (Kelsey Grammer) and his henchman Pigeon Toady (Steven Kramer Glickman).
“Storks” generates many great laughs, as a host of colorful characters square off over this one adorable baby. Samberg and Crown are excellent in their roles, bringing not just comedy but heart to the narrative. The opening scenes are very well done, setting up the story with humor and charm, and concluding in an entertaining and heartfelt fashion. It is the middle sections of the film that are supported almost entirely by quirky characters and a handful of fun lines or scenes and little else.
The premise of the film is highly creative, but overall the plot is too meandering to be satisfying or take advantage of its imaginative and humorous concept. Junior and Tulip are the supposed protagonists, but their screen time is shared almost equally with that of the Gardner family and Hunter/Pigeon Toady. The result is a lack of focus, as three disparate subplots practically fight each other for greater relevance in the narrative. The story of Mr. and Mrs. Gardner relishing the opportunity to put their work phones down, and spend time with their son, is ultimately the most compelling of the bunch. This is compared with Junior and Tulip’s plot– a conventional odd-couple dynamic that can become wearisome. The same can be said of the two amusing but ultimately one-note (and sometimes grating) villains and their attempts to apprehend the fugitives.
All of this is not to say that Tulip and Junior are not great characters, or that Grammer and Glickman aren’t lots of fun in their roles. It does, however, mean that best laughs often come from side characters, such as the Alpha and Beta Wolf (Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele) as they try to take the baby from Tulip and Junior to raise it as a member of their pack.
Overall, “Storks” offers plenty of humor and great animation for kids, as well as fun characters and surprisingly mature themes about parenthood and childhood for the adults. The film’s second act problems are more than redeemed by the end.
Besides “The Lego Movie” (2014), Warner Bros. Animation does not quite have the recent track record of Disney or Pixar, but “Storks” is a fun and charming family film that certainly keeps them in the discussion.
Running time: 100 minutes
Now playing in theaters