In an otherwise relatively lackluster year for film, animation has been doing very well for itself. Disney and Pixar put out incredible successes earlier this year, and Laika delivered a lovingly crafted epic tale. And now Warner Animation Group has stepped up to the plate with Storks. Written and directed by Nicholas Stoller, with Doug Sweetland also joining as director, this film is WAG’s second feature production. Their first, The Lego Movie, was a smash hit that frankly blew away my expectations. Warner Brothers has a long track record with animation — I mean, Looney Tunes? The Iron Giant? That’s not a history to sneeze at. Yet it’s been spotty, and I’ve been hoping after the surprise hit of The Lego Movie that Warner Animation Group would end up carving themselves a niche in the industry. Storks was a major test; could they follow up their success with another good movie? I’m relieved to say that the answer is a resounding “yes”.
Storks starts with a basic premise: what if the mythical storks who deliver babies decided to move on to other industries? So they incorporate into an Amazon-style behemoth called Cornerstore and end up delivering smartphones instead of babies. The plot follows Junior, a high-ranking deliverybird who’s given the opportunity to climb the corporate ladder. The catch is that to do so he has to fire Tulip, a human woman who has lived at Cornerstore her whole life after her own delivery was botched. When he doesn’t have the heart to, Junior instead moves her to the now-defunct baby making room — and no, that is not a euphemism for anything. Tulip accidentally turns on the machine, which spits out a baby, and they both have to deliver it before anyone finds out.
I have to start with some negative critiques first. One place the movie falls flat is in the plot. There do seem to be a lot of threads that are woven together, but they’re not woven together very tightly. Some of themes could also have been developed more. For example, the family that ordered the baby is troubled with overworked parents, who have a son pining for their attention. Of course, they end up learning about the value of family time, but it does feel rushed. That leads me into another complaint about the plot: a lot of it is pretty predictable. When you see characters, you can tell what their narrative roles are very clearly, you can tell how they’re going to develop, and you can guess pretty accurately what will happen. There aren’t any dramatic surprises, and a lot of familiar plot tricks make an appearance.
With that out of the way though, I want to move on to what Storks does well: its comedy is fast-paced, clever, and almost always hits home. I always applaud a family movie that forgoes the dreaded toilet humor in favor of witty dialogue. As I watched it Friday night, I was laughing, my friend was laughing, and the whole theater was laughing. Of course the trailers had given away quite a few gags, but I promise that even more gags await you in the theater. In fact, the comedy is so good that it makes up for its standardized plot. The writing didn’t go to creating a gripping drama. Instead, it went towards some fantastic gut-busting laughs. And right there is what I admire in this film: it played to its strengths very well. It offers enough plot to contextualize its jokes, and then went full-throttle with absurdity. The movie becomes outright ridiculous at points and it’s okay with that. Storks knows what it wants to be, a comedy above anything else, and I appreciate that.
I also admired the visuals of this movie. It features a more cartoonish style: for example, the birds have human teeth when grinning, but otherwise have just their bills. Right away it gives us cues that it’s going to be a more light-hearted and loose-cut film. While the backgrounds are sometimes a little bland, other areas (such as the baby-making machine) are incredibly fascinating to watch. Characters themselves squash and stretch to accent the comedy. The design of the storks’ mountain itself is very well-imagined, and it reminds me of other movies that explore mythical icons (think Rise of the Guardians). While 3D gimmicks do appear from time to time, they ultimately don’t distract from the film, and there are several instances where I could see 3D actually contributing to the movie’s experience.
If I had to describe the movie in one word, that word would be “delightful”. This year we’ve had animated movies discuss prejudice, portray characters overcoming mental disability, and construct skillfully crafted stories filled with menace and tension. Storks instead kicks back and gives us a breather. As an added bonus, WAG precedes the film with a Lego-themed short titled “The Master”, which I found very enjoyable and an excellent way to warm us up. Ultimately, if you’re looking for a laugh, Storks may be just what you’re looking for. If you have kids, go ahead and take them along, and you’ll have a wonderful family night out. As for Warner Brothers, I daresay they’ve found themselves a niche: instead of pursuing Pixar’s serious and sincere storytelling, Warner Animation Group is setting itself up as a dealer in animated comedies that excite all ages. With their next movie only a few months away with The Lego Batman Movie, I’m excited to see more of the studio’s work.
David Gouldthorpe is a junior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He can be reached at [email protected]