Kernel Rating (out of 5):
MPAA Rating: PG Length: 89 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 8+. This animated film follows a stork and human duo who attempt to deliver a baby to a family who requested it, and who are trailed by other birds and wolves who want to derail their plan. A few different scenes with action violence, including a plane crash, a chase with the wolves, and a scene where characters beat each other up to amuse the baby; a variety of bathroom and vomit humor, including a pixelated bird behind; a child asking his parents where babies come from; and some romantic tension between the main stork and human characters.
Moving at a breakneck pace and with a few too many plot twists, ‘Storks’ places a convoluted adventure in a world where anthropomorphic storks deliver packages instead of babies. But the film has a few good gags amid the over-activity.
By Roxana Hadadi
“Storks” has a simplistic name, but this is not a streamlined film.
This computer-animated kids’ flick is set in a world where anthropomorphic storks deliver packages for a mega-website, but they used to deliver babies to people who wanted them, and then there was one baby who ended up lost, and now the baby is an adult, and the star delivery stork for the mega-website needs to fire the baby to get a promotion, and … that’s only about the first five minutes.
“Storks” is only 89 minutes long but crams a huge amount of story into that runtime, and often veers into unnecessary, unfunny directions. But hidden among some of the lackluster material are some positive, if generic, messages about creating your own family and being in charge of your own life. Those are the self-esteem-boosting ideas that are now the overwhelming trend among children’s films, but “Storks” puts some spins on them that are engaging nevertheless.
The film focuses on the stork Junior (voiced by Andy Samberg, of “Hotel Transylvania 2”), who is the star deliverer for the company Cornerstore.com. Storks used to deliver babies to people who wrote in and asked for them, but the baby-making factory has been shut down for years, since the boss Hunter (voiced by Kelsey Grammar, of “The Expendables 3”) switched their business to packages instead of infants.
Now Hunter has a plan for Junior: He’ll promote him if he fires Tulip (voiced by Katie Crown), the only baby that the storks failed to deliver because they lost her address and essentially orphaned her. For the past 18 years, Tulip has tried to help the storks, but her inventions and plans usually end up backfiring and harming the company (“I don’t fit in anywhere and all I want to do is help!”). To earn his raise, Junior will have to get rid of Tulip—but when she accidentally makes a baby, Junior feels obligated to help deliver it.
When the two embark on their mission is when “Storks” really kicks into high gear, delivering villains in the form of a wolf pack who wants to eat the baby; a stork who is obsessed with Tulip; and a rival pigeon who wants Junior’s promotion for himself. Will Tulip and Junior be able to take care of the baby and find its family before their various foes catch up with them?
“Storks” throws jokes at its audience in a ceaseless barrage, and they’re a typically uneasy mix of gags for both children and adults. We’re supposed to laugh at babies abusing the storks; at Hunter telling Junior that bosses should “always be distant and weird”; at the violence Tulip and Junior put themselves through (because their physical pain amuses the baby); at one of the pair’s enemies smelling baby diapers for information; at one-liners about gentrification; at overweight kids. A disappointing number of these jokes dig at the physical depiction of various characters, and the low standard for humor here is often frustrating.
Troublesome too is how “Storks” stumbles with sometimes-dated gender roles. The family who requested the baby that Junior and Tulip are delivering has a moment where the mother has to prove she’s as “fun” as the father, and in another scene Tulip becomes protective of the baby, and describes it as her “maternal instincts” kicking in. But given that Tulip is depicted as just having turned 18, portraying her as primarily baby-crazy seems a little old-fashioned, and in a flash-forward, one of the final moments of another female character’s life is her in a wedding gown. “Storks” has Tulip say that her plan is to raise the delivery baby as a “strong, independent woman,” but its depiction of them feels somewhat stereotypical.
“Storks” has genuinely funny and memorable moments, like the wolf pack who can assemble into a suspension bridge and a submarine (“How is that possible?!” someone wonders) as they chase Tulip and Junior, and the dynamic between the two as they settle into caregivers works in a scene when they silently fight so the sleeping child doesn’t wake up. But how often “Storks” relies on the obvious joke instead of more deeply exploring the concept of family makes it as irritating as it is insightful.
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