As far as I know, storks have been out of the baby-delivery business for a few years now – and they’ve been out of the baby-making business since the birds and the bees won the contract. Now it seems that storks have turned their attention to other sorts of deliveries and have quickly become Amazon’s strongest competitor. The stork company may hire penguins for special assignments and emus for… I really don’t know what the emus are for… But at this company, storks are the strong, racially uniform employees who monopolize the corporate ladder and use smaller, weaker birds as golf balls and paper weights. Blatant discrimination aside, it’s all very cute.
The company also employs one human. Tulip (voiced by Katie Crown) – or Orphan Tulip as she hates to be called – is the one baby the storks failed to deliver. For lack of a better plan, they raised her as free labour for the company. Now 18, a total klutz, and getting closer every day to discovering the benefits of a lawsuit, the company has decided that it’s time to let Tulip go. The delicate task of telling her falls to the career-driven stork, Junior (voiced by Andy Samberg), who will happily say “You’re fired” in exchange for a staggering promotion. Of course, he totally flubs it, and out of the mess a baby is born. Hmm… In order to prevent another Tulip situation and for Junior to hold on to that sweet promotion, the pair decide to deliver the baby to a young American boy who desperately wants a sibling (and whose parents have been too busy for The Talk). What could possibly go wrong?
The stork company is inconveniently located on mount Olympus in the high arctic, a two-day walk from tropical streams and shipping ports. The first challenge Tulip, Junior, and baby face is a disturbingly large pack of wolves who either want to eat them or raise the baby like a Canadian Tarzan. The wolves are fantastically funny characters – but the writing steers them from funny to parody. Instead of hunting down our heroic trio like wolves, the pack joins paws and morphs into the form of a minivan. Like the Wonder Twins. No Finding Nemo cleverness here, but delightfully suitable comedy for children under five.
The role of the big bad villain in Storks jumps from one bird to another. I was hoping interference would come from a UPS carrier who’d gotten into the baby-delivery business to keep up with the competition. I guess they’re saving that story arc for the sequel. Because art reflects life, one of the most irritating villains in the nest is a pigeon named Pigeon Toady (voiced by Stephen Kramer Glickman) who tells obnoxiously wild stories, is an unnatural shade for his species, has a strange understanding of sentence structure, and looks kind of like Donald Trump. Coo coo cooincidence?
Pigeon Toady is one of a few characters who are too extreme for their environment. While Junior and Tulip are light and funny, Storks’ predictable plot and convenient evasion of messy situations reigns in the characters’ potential. There are funny moments, but in general the material is limited.
The side-story next to this journey of delivery is the American boy waiting for his new sibling. Nate (voiced by Anton Starkman) is a perfectly relatable kid with no friends, distracted parents, and too much imagination. His preparations for his new baby brother are adorable. Kids watching will want to run home and spend more time building stuff with their parents. And along the way, they will surely ask, “Can I send a letter to the storks for a new brother?” To which the parents will respond, “Well you see, honey, babies actually come from…” Storks is a cute movie, but every DVD release should come with information pamphlets for the parents.
While the animation is funny and oh so very cute (the bigger the eyes the better), the story is just too simple. There are no grand surprises or dramatic scenes of self-reinvention. The unintentional parenting moments between Tulip and Junior speak to the parents in the crowd, with that excellent skill of sneaking adult jokes into kid’s material – but it’s all too brief. These life-imitating scenarios are cancelled out by a warehouse full of adorable babies cooing comfortably. It just doesn’t make sense. Storks can deliver babies, wolf packs can morph into submarines, and parents can ditch work to build a playground on the roof – but a full generation of babies that don’t cry? I’m lost. Delivering high responsibility packages after an 18-year delay, Storks is in the realm of a 4/10.