Directed by Nicholas Stoller, Doug Sweetland
Featuring the voice talents of Andy Samberg, Katie Crown, Kelsey Grammer, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Jennifer Aniston, Ty Burrell, Danny Trejo and Stephen Kramer Glickman.
Storks have moved on from delivering babies to packages. But when an order for a baby appears, the best delivery stork must scramble to fix the error by delivering the baby.
There’s a reason the late Chuck Jones-the mastermind behind Looney Tunes – is remembered as maybe the great of animation; Jones had a fundamental understanding of what one could do with medium, the world building, animation as a facility to play with physics. Not to go so far as to compare Storks, the latest from Warner Bros. Animation – whose only film prior was 2014’s delightful The LEGO Movie – to that of Jones’ output, but it certainly takes notes. It seems infatuated with the brazen, brash dismissal of sense in Looney Tunes, thus resulting in something far, far weirder and intricately smarter than that to be expected from a mainstream animation.
Storks were once famed deliverers of babies, but soon realised that this was not be commercially viable, choosing instead to move into the distribution of miscellaneous products under the guise of Cornerstore, an Amazon style monolith. When Tulip (Katie Crown), a human orphan raised by the storks after an accident 18 years earlier, accidentally activates the creation of a baby, she must deliver the baby to its parents with the help of her stork boss Junior (Andy Samberg).
Oh the joy in filmmaking with a deeply rooted understanding of the visual medium. All to often animation plays itself pedestrian. Take the output of Dreamworks, or that of Blue Sky, whose films seem to accept their fate of the mundane; that the sudden appearance of a joke of flatulence is somewhat of a marvel. Storks is something far more. In a stand out sequence, a wolf pack chasing Tulip and Junior form a bridge, then a submarine and then a plane as a result of their close-knit brotherhood. It’s that Chuck Jones sensibility that works so well.
Jokes, from the offset, land at such a consistent rate, it arguably deserves further viewings. Like that of Aardman Animations, a big laugh landing results in a further joke being lost beneath deep chuckles.
It helps that director Nicholas Stoller – who previously directed both Bad Neighbours and Forgetting Sarah Marshall – lends his comedic know how with such aplomb. Where there’s a sympathetic through-line, Stoller is clearly more infatuated with sidestepping sequences of familial love for ever-increasingly absurd jokes; co-director Stephen Glickman appears as Toady, a madcap creation of Napoleonic egomania and patriarchal obsession with which punch lines are obsessively mined.
Running parallel with their avian adventure is a slightly more emblematic familial struggle of a small boy hoping for a brother as his parents (voiced charmingly by Ty Burrell and Jennifer Aniston) come to terms with their intrusive workload. Yet even at its most saccharin-and late on it may err towards the cloying – it’s still effective and affective.
Sentimentality works best when on the back-foot. Films with which sentimentality drowns cloy and manipulate, Storks knows exactly when to move towards the sentimental, and although the final ten minutes lack the erratic, manic pacing of the previous 80, there’s such attachment to the characters that it’s all but impossible not be swept away in a sea of tears.
Warner Bros. Animation are now two films in, both of which stand tall amidst the bilge produced by many a production company. Storks is something delightfully off-kilter, peculiar and ever-increasingly tender. What joy.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★