Storks and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros
Directed by Nicholas Stoller and Doug Sweetland
Is this just the year of animated bird movies!? First we have Angry Birds, now we have Storks… okay, it’s just two movies, but that still seems like too many! I really didn’t know anything about this movie walking in, having only hear the title and maybe seen a poster, which is odd considering that this isn’t some straight to DVD crap from an unknown studio. Maybe Warner Bros was keeping this one close to the chest, or maybe I’ve just been living under a rock this whole time. Anyway, is this the follow-up to the LEGO movie that they’re hoping will prove their viability as an animation studio, or will this prove the Phil Lord and Chris Miller in the director’s chair was the only reason that was a success in the first place? Let’s find out!!
The movie is set in a world where at one time (presumably throughout all of humanity’s existence up until a few years ago) Storks would receive letters from humans and then… I guess use those letters to create a fetus in some sort of machine that grows them to term in a matter of minutes. It’s not clear how much control the parents have when deciding what kind of baby they want (no gay kids in MY family!) but regardless, the babies that are crafted in this ungodly mechanism are then delivered by the Storks all around the world. At some point though, I guess the humans learned how to fuck which made the Storks rather redundant, so they decided to switch their operation from baby growing and delivery to basically become Amazon. Okay… I have several questions about all of this already, but we should probably move on from there. So when the movie picks up (which can only be about twenty years after they stopped delivering babies), the best Stork deliverer in the business Junior (Andy Samberg) is up for a management position as the current manager Hunter (Kelsey Grammer) is apparently going to the BOARD OF DIRECTORS or something… even though we never see anyone higher than Hunter in the company structure. For Junior to get his new job though, he has to do one thing; fire Tulip. Who is Tulip? Sigh… okay, rewind a bit. Apparently right before the Storks stopped delivering babies (maybe this was an inciting incident?) one Stork lost his damn mind after seeing how CUUUUUUTE his baby was and broke the baby’s personalized tracking thingy… which is some sort of GPS device that tells them where the baby goes… and it’s the only copy of that information… so the baby is an orphan now and the stork in question flies off AND IS NEVER SEEN AGAIN! That baby is now eighteen (i.e. they’ve only stopped delivering babies for less than a generation) and FOR SOME REASON wasn’t brought to a human orphanage, but has instead been bumming around the packing facility this entire time doing odd jobs for the company. To make a long story short; shenanigans happen, Junior and Tulip accidently make a baby with the decommissioned baby-maker (don’t ask), and they have to deliver it before anyone finds out what the hell he did and he loses his job. For some reason Hunter wants to stop them rather than help them cover it up (does he WANT Junior to be in charge, or not!?), and of course we have to cut back to the kid who sent the letter wishing for a little brother (he’s gonna get a little sister instead, so maybe the human’s DON’T have that much control over what baby they get) and his issues with his parents being gainfully employed. You ever get the feeling that the writers didn’t actually think anything through when they were writing a script?
WOW! You know, I “SOMEHOW” managed to avoid the worst animated films of this year like Norm of the North and The Wild Life, so I guess the universe is punishing me by giving me an absolute train wreck of a garbage fire of a movie. Then again, maybe I’m still getting off easy as this one CLEARLY had money behind it, but what the hell did that money go to!? Nothing! This movie MIGHT look okay, but what we’re seeing play out would be awful and incomprehensible even if freaking Pixar was animating it. The movie has no idea that it wants to focus on for more than three minutes, the animation is over the top expressive yet has no creativity to it, and its message is completely muddled and feels entirely tacked on. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Kubo and the Two Strings, but now that I’ve sat through this STUDIO BACKED piece of shit (what the hell were Warner Bros thinking when they sank seventy million into this script?!), I’m suddenly feeling a bit more kind to that movie’s less than stellar handling of magical realism. This on the other hand? Yeah, this doesn’t earn more than maybe one to two chuckles, and doesn’t hit a single emotional point that it shamelessly tries to go for by showing “cute” babies on screen and having people go AWWWW right into the camera. It’s sad when the movie itself has to tell you how you should feel because it can’t convey it naturally.
The movie is basically split into two story lines. The slightly stronger of the two even though it makes absolutely no sense is with Junior and Tulip trying to get the baby to its home, and the far less interesting and somehow even LESS realistic is the family where the son wrote the letter and is now expecting a baby to arrive despite his parents instance that storks don’t do that anymore. In the former story, we have a setup that’s been seen in countless other animated features; whether it’s the characters finding their way back home (Toy Story) or delivering someone of vital importance (Shrek). It’s done exceptionally poor here though as there’s no rhyme, reason, or even believable geography for any of the events happening. The Stork’s facility is somewhere in the middle of the ocean, but they clearly aren’t in the arctic as there aren’t any cold climate birds and Tulip is usually wearing a short sleeve shirt. However, they need to pass THROUGH the arctic to deliver the baby to the United States which makes no sense. Either they were either going in the wrong direction or they decided to go the LONG way by circumnavigating the globe rather than take a direct route. I honestly have no idea at any point in their journey how close they are to reaching their goal as the winter wasteland turns into a spring time climate without any transition, but then they have to get on a boat to make it the rest of the way there.
But let’s try to ignore that as it’s not really the destination, but the journey that’s the most important, right? Well too bad the beats of their story is just as disjointed as the locations they go to, as things just happen out of convenience constantly in here and it’s impossible to take anything seriously which robs it of any drama or tension. Tulip has the plane that she SOMEHOW managed to make (she’s been living at a shipping factory her whole life. How the hell did she get a degree in engineering and the resources to build the damn thing!?), but because the movie would be over in ten minutes if nothing went wrong, her maternal instinct kicks in at the most inopportune moment and she just HAS to check on the baby and leave the plane without a pilot. They end up crashing the plane, but then later the plane is fixed and they just tell us that Tulip fixed it earlier when we weren’t looking. The baby carrier’s door is absolutely impossible for the baby inside to open… until it’s not. The bad guys want to stop them from delivering the baby, and SOMEHOW they can remotely change the delivery location… even though it was established EARLIER that the magical McGuffin that holds the baby’s location is the only record of where the baby goes. IF THEY COULD CONNECT TO IT WITH WI-FI, THEN WHY THE HELL DON’T THEY HAVE A CLOUD BACKUP AND GOTTEN TULIP TO HER HOME!? If there was one thing that mildly worked in here due to its sheer absurdity, it was the wolves that seem to be just as sentient as the Storks, but still live in caves and travel in packs. What makes them work is that they’re voiced by Key and Peele (no idea that was them until the credits) who give the two pack leaders a sort of intensity that no one else can really pull of in here, and they have this gimmick where the wolves can come together and form crazy as hell contraptions, including a suspension bridge when they need to cross a gap. The brief times they were on screen were the only times I even came close to a chuckle here.
While that part is mostly just obnoxiously scattershot and not all that funny, at least it’s better than the family drama which is even more painful to sit through because that’s the story that’s clearly supposed to be grounded to some extent. There aren’t any talking birds, trashcan airplanes, or wolf submarines; just a family who’s slowly coming back together after being driven apart by that one thing that ruins the lives of all children. I of course am talking about parents who have jobs. You know, those things that enable the parents to afford taking their bratty kids to the theater to see movies that talk shit about them! The parents are real estate brokers or agents or something, and the only thing we know is that they are the only two employees whose gimmick is that they are available twenty-four hours a day, three hundred and sixty five days a year. Because subtlety is non-existent here. So is logic as well because the kid eventually convinces them to put down the hands free devices and iPads for a while so that they can tear apart the fucking house in a make believe family project rather than say… take the kid to a zoo. Then again, I’m not sure how much fun a zoo would be in this universe as most animals SEEM to be sentient. The point is that they’re letting the kid essentially demolish their house for no good reason (it starts off as creating a landing pad on the roof for the Stork to land on and then goes bat shit insane from there) and I just can’t imagine a parent ever agreeing to any of this. It’s one thing to show the real consequences that can happen when trying to support your family the best way you can (Inside Out pulled this off flawlessly as a secondary story line), but the film does its audience a massive disservice by painting such a broad (and blatantly incorrect) picture of what it means to be good parents.
There are so many more awful things to talk about here, from the awful climax that makes no fucking sense, to the annoying pigeon character who drains the comedy out of every scene he’s in, to the still baffling idea that the storks just left the lost baby in their warehouse and not her to ACTUAL orphanage, to the criminal misuse of a great actor like Kelsey Grammer, but the one that I think hurts the movie the most is it’s false sincerity. Just like the half-assed humor, half-assed premise, and half-assed writing, the emotional beats here carry no weight and feel plastered on to score brownie points. What’s the ultimate message of the movie? That it’s more fulfilling to be parents than anything else? That pursuing careers is a poor substitute for starting a family? And this isn’t just the kid’s storyline. I won’t spoil it, but the way the movie ends for the Storks seems to be a rebuke of modern technology and entrepreneurship in favor of “tradition” and “family” which isn’t NECESSARILY a bad message, but it’s so lazy and cheap in its view of the world that it’s downright insulting how black and white it’s moralizing is and it rings completely hollow. Babies are good; everything else is worse.
The key phrase for this movie is They Didn’t Earn It. They don’t earn laughs with the jokes they wrote here. They don’t earn feels with the dramatic moments that are shoehorned in. They don’t earn the world they set up because of how slapdash it’s put together. If it earns anything, it’s the decent animation which clearly took a lot of effort and managed to add SOMETHING to the film which is more than I can say about the writing. This is cynical mass marketed trash that even Secret Life of Pets didn’t sink to. Say what you will about that Toy Story knock off, it at least had a modicum of ambition. This however? Nope. Not even a little. Don’t bother seeing this movie, ESPECIALLY in the theaters. If the filmmakers didn’t give a shit, then why should you?
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