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By London Vayavong · October 5, 2016
This film has set a slight milestone for me. Perhaps not a particularly monumental one but still very personal. It made me feel old. Now I am used to seeing family films and appreciating the art form of animation. Sometimes they add some type of social commentary or have genuinely funny jokes. However, sitting there amongst the laughing children and their talkative parents reminded me how out of place my presence was. This situation was further exasperated by unfunny previews and the overly long LEGO short film. So by the beginning of the Storks, I was a little worried and uncomfortable. With all that said, sometimes it is good to ignore your initial feelings because by the end I was in pain from laughter.
The movie’s premise is a take on the classic tale of storks delivering infants to expecting families. The key difference in this story is that the storks had decided that delivering babies was much too stressful and that becoming an Amazon parody was a much more profitable enterprise. The two protagonists are an ambitious stork named Junior and an adult orphan named Tulip. Together they’ve accidentally created a baby from a letter written by a lonely and only child. From there, it falls on them to work together and deliver the baby as quickly – and cautiously – as possible.
The story is not the strongest part of the film but it’s a nice framework to enable great set pieces and scenes. The elements that truly make the movie work are the dialogue and animation. The chemistry between the two leads is electric and they bounce off each other really well. They are constantly bantering, to be sure, but every so often there are genuine moments of tenderness. There’s one scene in particular where they both need to deal with the crying baby, which inevitably leads to the sort of bickering one expects from a married couple. I was pleasantly surprised that the filmmakers were willing to create a scene with what ends up feeling like a surprisingly mature dynamic. The movie also periodically cuts to the author of the letter and his parents. His dialogue mostly lands as far as laughs are concerned as he passive aggressively pressures his parents in order to get his way. While the main characters were enjoyable, the highlights are easily the wolf pack. They show up in the beginning to try to take the baby and every scene with them is gold. They truly are avatars for the creativity of the animators. They have a special ability that enables them to transform into random objects and vehicles – which sounds strange, I know, but the sheer absurdity of it demands respect.
If there is one genuine complaint to be leveled, it falls on the shoulders of one character in particular that’s on another level of annoying. I’m talking about Pideon-Toady and his unfortunate name is just the tip of the frustration iceberg. His character is an obnoxious and irritating caricature of a “bro" — he serves as one of the central antagonists, and its clear from the start that he just doesn’t work . He appears in quite a few scenes and every single one is cringe-worthy and painful. There’s even a song number with him and it felt like an arduous chore to watch. Even the kids that were laughing throughout became silent whenever he came on. It is a little disheartening that the whole film can be brought down by one truly awful element.
Probably the most surprising aspect of this film is that there is some social commentary. The most obvious message is the importance of family and spending time with them. However, what is more poignant are the progressive elements that came about much later in the film. I wish that I could discuss them but that would spoil some of the film’s best moments.
Overall, there is a great deal to enjoy about Storks — even with the unfortunate character of who shall not be named. Warner Bros. Animation has succeeded in creating a movie that feels like a genuine throwback to classic animation. The movie’s slapstick jokes, snappy dialogue, and just plain absurdity reminded me of an old Looney Toons cartoon. One final and important note that needed to be mentioned is the abundance of cuteness that by the end will leave anyone feeling warm inside. Which is unsurprising for a movie about babies.