I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Jared McMillan // Film Critic
STORKS | 89 min | PG
Director: Nicholas Stoller and Doug Sweetland
Cast: Andy Samberg, Katie Crown, Kelsey Grammer, Jennifer Aniston, Ty Burrell, Anton Starkman, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele and Danny Trejo
Most animated movies have something to do with the family dynamic. Families, as a general term, are a collective of beings (almost limited the term to people, but we can’t forget pets!) that have a bond of unconditional love, superseding most common interactions. In other words, blood relativity isn’t really necessary to consider others family.
The plots usually involve a way to come together and form that family. Sometimes a tragedy takes place to fracture the family until it finds a different way to become whole. Other times, there are loners with hardened dispositions that don’t realize what they’re missing until events cause them to welcome other individuals as families.
STORKS utilizes these same motifs, if you will, but spins it into something modern, hilarious, and appreciative. Working off the old hand-me-down story that parents told children to avoid uncomfortable conversation, storks deliver babies upon request to expecting parents…at least they used to in the past. Now, it’s a delivery system attached to CornerStore.com, where they deliver parcels a la Amazon.
Junior (Andy Samberg) is the best delivery stork and is about to be promoted to boss thanks to Hunter (Kelsey Grammer). However, before he can takeover, Junior needs to fire Tulip (Katie Crown), an orphan that the storks took in, and also the last baby they ever produced. She’s now 18, and needs to get back to her kind before she ruins their business.
Meanwhile, Nate Gardner (Anton Starkman) is feeling lonely because of his workaholic parents (Ty Burrell and Jennifer Aniston). He finds an old pamphlet for Storks delivery and writes them a letter for a little brother. Tulip comes across this letter and does the expected in making a baby girl. Junior and Tulip must then deliver the baby to the Gardners before the storks find out.
At first glance, STORKS seemed to be headed in a metaphorical conflict of modern capitalism ruining the thriving family. While that is indeed way too complex for the cartoon demographic, by the time the end credits rolled, it was apparent that the film is meant to be an example of the modern family. Today’s family is created in many fashions, for many walks of life, and this is an animated movie that showcases this reality.
Without giving much away, let’s take a look at the method of stork delivery itself. It is a non-traditional creation of a family, giving way to becoming a metaphor for the alternative of adoption. Junior and Tulip create a baby by accident; neither of them is fit to keep this baby so they need to get it to a good family that wants it. This is further exemplified by the various parental-type situations that give a lot of humor to the topic. It never strays from the fact that it is for families, but uses this platform as a way to have families understand non-traditional family.
Written and directed by Nicolas Stoller (NEIGHBORS, writer of THE MUPPETS), the man is keen on making sure the humor is a necessary vehicle, which happens on two fronts: whip-fast dialogue between the characters, sometimes in rapid succession, and zany sight gags. It also has one of the funniest fight scenes in recent memory involving Junior, Tulip, henchmen penguins, and trying to keep the baby sleeping. The humor keeps the movie from being too on the nose, which is a good thing, but keeps the adoption analogy on the surface with a side plot of Tulip wanting to know her real parents.
The story doesn’t really have the flow or continuity of say, Pixar or DreamWorks, and the “final showdown” is somewhat anti-climactic, but it keeps everything on an entertaining level, never really manipulating the audience for sad moments. Also, the animation itself is fantastic, brightly lit to feel like its own originality. It is a happy, animated allegory for something that is joyous, the feeling of your family actually happening after waiting for so long. STORKS is celebrating the non-traditional, the alternative, the intimate diversity…and it delivers a lot more of a reflection of today’s family unit than most animated movies.
STORKS opens nationwide today in 2D and 3D formats.