Review - 'Storks'
Nick Stoller's Storks is Warner Animation Group's second stab at releasing an animated feature, the first being the incredibly colorful and entertaining advertisement; The Lego Movie. This film, unfortunately, lacks the same level of energy and tongue-in-cheek antics of that film. Though these are not qualities that every animated kids flick requires; they're the ones that Storks is trying so desperately to aspire to while at the same time playing it safe.
The film follows Junior (Andy Samberg), a stork that's being lined up as the next boss of Cornerstore; a stork-run company that once delivered babies but now basically serves as what Amazon will be in a few years. The last baby produced by the company is an accident-prone orphan named Tulip who has just turned 18 (Katie Crown) and has aspirations to find her lost family. After Junior can't find the will to fire Tulip he hides her in the old baby-making facility, and naturally, she makes a mistake and a baby is created, forcing them both to embark on a journey to find its home.
I didn't go into this film pretending it was the kind of movie that was made for me; I know this is intended specifically for the family crowd. That being said, I feel like the truly great family films can appeal to EVERYONE and be successful on multiple levels; which this film doesn't accomplish, nor even really tries to. All of the boxes are ticked, but it's the work of someone that just wants to get out early and cash that check. The film looks like cotton candy, sounds like "Now That's What I Call Music 94" and even has the typical "family is important" message oozing out of every on of its orifices.
Speaking of messages, another big one Storks touches on is diversity and it does so in a more natural way for the most part. That said, the film then starts to send some fairly mixed signals. For example; the main stork, Junior, partners with Tulip to take the newly-created baby to its owners and through the course of the journey they assume more parental positions. The film seems to hint ever so slightly that they are becoming involved only to pull back; seemingly too scared to commit to the idea of these two being together. I know one character is technically a bird and one is a human, and yeah, in the real world that would be bestiality, but they are presented here as equals, almost as if they are only separated by race. I guess my question is: why present the notion of a relationship in the first place if you're not going to commit to it? I just left the theater confused as to whether they were friends, family or...something else.
Despite its good intentions; watching this movie is like talking to someone that has a decent story to tell, but insists on inserting truckloads of juvenile humor between each morsel of information you actually care about. I did actually want to see what happened with these characters, but the film seems to think that to be entertaining to children; it must have an allotment of time devoted to freewheeling inanity before finally displaying true character developments. The movie is also filled with poor transitions, sometimes cutting from a scene that didn't seem over to another scene that has no relation to the previous one.
The film course-corrects a bit towards the end; providing a satisfying, albeit predictable finale. Up until then the film was a tonally jumbled mess that knew where it needed to go but not how to get there. I was impressed that it managed to tie up all of the characters stories into a nice cohesive bow. Sadly, a good finale doesn't redeem roughly an hour of spastic meandering.
The main bright spot of Storks is the cast; who all seem game and are appropriately zippy. most of the characters will hold your attention while they're on-screen. Andy Samberg's manic charm is mostly intact, though he's unable to fully *erm* spread his comedic wings here. I also enjoyed Tulip's character; who is voiced by new-comer, Katie Crown. There are also mildly entertaining turns by Kelsey Grammar, who plays the boss stork and Steve Glickman, who portrays Pigeon Toady, a pigeon that will torment parent's nightmares, but for me was amusing.
From the technical side, the film is competent, but it also doesn't try anything new to separate itself from other animated fare. Stylistically, this film blends right in with Hotel Transylvania and Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs. Other than an inventive five-minute-long ice cave escape sequence, there's nothing that stands out as particularly memorable from a visual stand-point. I also found the abundance of pop music to be distracting, and very par-for-the-course. One after the other, like clockwork, I would hear the generic pulse of another auto-tuned pop song or the typical acoustic guitar strum and vocal croons of the most vanilla indie bands you've ever heard. There's a musical score as well, which oddly, doesn't always sync with what's happening on screen. Taken by itself, the score's fine, but there were definitely times where the music didn't fit tonally with what was happening on screen.
There are good messages to be found within Storks; but it has been done before and done better in many other films. Young children are likely to get more out of this than anyone else which is a shame because I think a family film should be entertaining to everyone in said family. For me, this bird was downed from the start and the good moments weren't worth trudging through lengthy stretches of inanity to get to.