FILM REVIEW – STORKS. With the voices of Andy Samberg, Katie Crown, Kelsey Grammer, Danny Trejo, Stephen Kramer Glickman. Written by Nicholas Stoller. Directed by Nicholas Stoller, Doug Sweetland. Rated PG for mild action and some thematic elements. 89 minutes.
When we look back at the film year, this has been a good run for American animation: “Zootopia,” “Finding Dory,” “The Secret Life of Pets,” “Sausage Party,” “Kubo and the Two Strings.” One film that won’t be added to that list is STORKS, an embarrassment for all concerned.
The premise is that storks have gotten out of the business of delivering babies and now deliver packages in an operation that looks surprisingly like a certain online behemoth. Unfortunately, it’s a promising idea that goes nowhere. Instead we meet Junior (voice of Andy Samberg), whom Hunter (Kelsey Grammer) is about to appoint to head the entire operation. First, however, Junior has to deal with Tulip (Katie Crown), a teenage girl who was raised by the storks when her deliverer Jasper (Danny Trejo) became obsessed with the baby and broke the tracking device to find her human family.
For reasons not made clear, Tulip is constantly making a mess of things, and Junior is to “liberate” her by removing her from the facility. Instead he assigns her to the mailroom, to deal with the requests for babies that are no longer being processed. Cut to little Nate (Anton Starkman), a young boy who wants a baby brother because his workaholic parents (Ty Burrell, Jennfer Aniston) have no time for him. When Tulip processes Nate’s letter and a baby is produced, Junior and Tulip set off to deliver the unauthorized baby before Hunter can find out.
There’s much more plot churning, little that makes sense. There’s Pigeon Toady (Stephen Kramer Glickman), who calls everyone “Brah” and may be the most annoying movie character since Jar Jar Binks. There’s a wolf pack (whose leaders are voiced by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele), that can transform itself into things like submarines and suspension bridges, and which becomes obsessed with the baby’s cuteness. And, of course, there’s the absurd character changes such as when Hunter goes from stern boss to “villain who must die” and Nate’s parents, who transform themselves from an obsession with their real estate business to “fun Dad” and “fun Mom.”
The animation is serviceable, although anyone who pays for the 3D version is essentially making a charitable donation to Warner Bros. The real problem is the script, from the lame story, to the lack of any likeable characters. As the protagonists, Junior and Tulip may be the least sympathetic heroes of any movie this year, live action or animated. The theme of finding family–whether actual or makeshift–is a common one in animated films, so one has to wonder why it is handled so badly here.
Suffice to say, if your child is old enough to know where babies come from, he or she is too old for “Storks.” If you choose to endure it with younger children who are apt to be less critical, you’re on your own.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.