Arts & Culture

Disappointing ‘Storks’ falls from sky

New Warner Bros. film trips over convoluted plot, fails to humanize animated characters

By
senior staff writer
Thursday, October 27, 2016

“Storks,” the Warner Bros. comedy about birds who deliver babies (and basically everything else), joins a host of films that have attempted to explore the possibilities of simulating flight through animation. But “Storks” seems wholly uninterested in pushing these aerial frontiers, instead offering a mediocre picture aimed at young viewers who will leave theaters befuddled by the film’s convoluted plot structure.

There’s a scene in “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” DreamWorks Animation’s splendid animated fantasy epic, in which the protagonist and his dragon companion enjoy a moment of solitude in the sky. The camera paints the elegant symmetry of their flight as an ethereal dance atop the clouds. Like “Storks,” “How to Train Your Dragon 2” invites these wonderful moments, and investment in them lends credibility to the film’s animated world. While “Storks” limps into such scenes, “How to Train Your Dragon 2” soars, literally. In taking pains to really capture the giddy boundlessness of flight, “How to Train Your Dragon 2” commits to the kind of visual poetry that separates memorable animated films from their less impressive counterparts.

“Storks” belongs solidly in the latter category. The film follows a stork voiced by Andy Samberg, Junior, who along with the rest of his species delivers packages to humans from the Amazon-like retailer, Cornerstore.com. Storks have abandoned their traditional business of baby delivery following the botched shipment of an infant named Tulip — voiced by Katie Crown — some 18 years prior to the story. But following a complicated series of events involving Junior and the now-orphaned Tulip, the storks’ long-dormant baby factory produces a child that the two are determined to deliver to its family.

If that last paragraph confused you, don’t worry: “Storks” continually trips over its unnecessarily complicated plot. “Storks” is WB’s first submission to the animated genre since “Lego Movie,” but the jump cuts and cheeky scattershot humor that worked in “Lego Movie” clearly do not translate well to the avian world.

“Storks” has its moments, of course. The animation is at times impressive: A scene involving a strangely protean wolf pack (don’t ask) capable of mutating itself into bridges and submarines to chase Junior and Tulip requires downright genius to pull off, and “Storks” does it with ease. When directors Nicholas Stoller and Doug Sweetland finally show audiences the baby-making machine in action, the contraption hums with an enchanting harmony.

“Storks” occasionally finds its stride with genuinely funny moments, particularly one involving a fight between our heroes and a nefarious band of penguins (again, don’t ask). The action is conducted in complete silence in deference to the sleeping baby hovering at the edge of the fray, which subtly undermines the physical stakes of the battle.

But the film’s jokes too often miss their mark. Samberg inflects his comedy with an unfortunate deadpan bluntness, and he and the other actors make the mistake of vocally overcompensating in an attempt to add to the farce. “Storks” aspires to target a very young demographic, and thus jokes involving neighborhood gentrification and feminism fall on deaf ears.

Animated movies are an exercise in the imaginative process, each frame capturing a moment in the film’s larger artistic tapestry. “Storks” leaves you wishing it had invested more of its attention to those little moments of beauty.

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