With its bright colours and wild premise, Storks is intended to be Warner Bros. Animation’s competitive entry against the works of giants such as Pixar and Dreamworks Animation. Unlike the studio’s wildly successful The Lego Movie, Storks falls short of its creators’ ambitions, but is nevertheless an entertaining riot with plenty of laughs for both parents and children.
In this world, babies were once delivered by storks. However, in recent times baby delivery has been cancelled in favour of more lucrative package delivery. The ambitious Junior (Andy Samberg) is in line to be boss, but his fast-track to success is interrupted by a clumsy human, Tulip (Katie Crown), when they accidentally turn on the baby machine. Now the race is on for them to deliver an inconvenient baby before anyone finds out.
Normally in works like this, focus is either on the world building or the “lesson.” For example, Shrek never bothers to explain why we’re in a world of fairytales, but uses these fairytales to teach a touching lesson about judging people by appearances. At the other end of the spectrum, the cartoon series The Legend of Korra has no definitive overarching metaphor, instead exploring a fabulous world with consistent if bizarre rules. Unfortunately, Storks does neither. The odd world set-up is skimmed over, never explaining why there are intelligent storks or where the baby machine came from, while the film’s overall lesson is difficult to interpret.
At first glance, the premise makes a handy metaphor for adoption. Junior and Tulip’s pint-sized problem is basically an unplanned pregnancy they’re trying to adopt out. The film is strongest when it plays on this, following the hilarious antics of two woefully under-prepared parents. It also provides some powerful moments, especially as they begin to bond with this infant.
The metaphor inevitably falls apart with the recipient family. Had it been a childless couple who requested a baby, the plot and theme would have dovetailed together nicely. But the only member of the family who seems really invested in the idea of a baby is Nate (Anton Starkman), who places the order on behalf of his workaholic parents (Jennifer Aniston and Ty Burrell). There’s no emotional power to their story because they don’t really lose or gain anything.
It’s a shame because this film has a lot of interesting things to say. Tulip’s determined cheerfulness as an undelivered baby reflects the pain of children lost in the foster care system. The villainous boss stork Hunter (in a show-stealing performance by Kelsey Grammer) represents the evils of an adoption industry that prioritises profit over the welfare of a child. Meanwhile, there’s baby-obsessed wolf pack as would-be parents who are not quite suitable. Had these elements tied together a little better, Storks would have been a brilliant film.
As is, Storks is a fun and nonsensical time. Some components might feel unnecessarily tagged on, but there’s still plenty to keep an audience entertained. The laughs come thick and fast, with slap-stick comedy for the kids and sly jokes for the parents. The characters are adorably sympathetic when they’re not side-splittingly funny. Though not a perfect film, Storks will have you in stitches and leaving the cinema with a smile on your face.
THE REEL SCORE: 7/10