I was on a couple of really long flights recently between Japan and the US, and having several hours worth of time to kill I ended up watching three animated movies that had come out within the last year – Moana, Sing, and Storks. The first two movies had a wide viewership and based on their advertising probably everyone knows about said films. Moana was as amazing as it was obviously going to be considering Disney’s track record, and Sing was, like most Illumination Entertainment fare, humorous but still trying and failing to be as heartwarming as Pixar. I’ll probably write about those films eventually at greater length. But the film that I actually have more immediate things to say about is the third movie, which I, and probably a lot of other people, hadn’t even heard of.
Storks is about a stork named Junior, an 18 year old human girl named Tulip, and their shenanigan-laden journey to deliver a baby girl to her family which comprises of a young boy named Nate who just wants a younger sibling to play with (preferably one with ninja skills). This is despite storks having not included babies in their delivery service, known as Cornerstore.com, for nearly two decades. It should be mentioned that this is a world in which storks used to deliver human babies, but don’t anymore because it was too much of a hassle for them and there are “other ways” of getting babies. The film includes a smattering of oddball characters including the weird and distant power-obsessed boss of the storks, a socially inept pigeon desperate for attention, and two wolves voiced by Key and Peele who want the baby to be a member of their pack. The personalities of all the characters bounce off of each other incredibly well, and the comedic timing of the voice roles mixed with vibrant and fast-paced animation add to the humor. The overall pacing of the film is all over the place and it has been given some negative reviews due to its “hyperactivity”, but I feel like that is largely the point. In my opinion, its unconventional humor and story-telling methods are what gives Storks its charm. The film has so many completely random moments and certain lines or scenes that make you pause and go “wait, what?”, and that’s what makes it funny. Not only that, but some of the seemingly random points actually are strung along through the movie as running gags to be concluded at the end – for example the “form of” transformations of the wolves, or the role of the tiny songbirds in the boss stork’s office. Not only are these funny sight-gags in and of themselves, but they have somewhat of a final punchline when their last gag is played out.
Character and story-wise, there isn’t anything extremely deep with this film, but there is enough there to get by. The characters’ dialogue is written well, and there isn’t anything overly cliche in the script. In fact, I felt a lot of the characters had their own voice and their own way of speaking that felt more than just personality gimmicks. It has a cute theme of family, and the power of friendship and the adorableness of babies. There’s not a whole lot new or deep there, but I don’t think that’s what this film was trying to be. And it doesn’t really need to be that to be a fun viewing. Some smaller parts of the film are rather progressive, such as the vaguely gay relationship between the two male wolves taking a parental role over the baby, or the montage at the end including families with all kinds of parents such as multi-racial couples, same-sex couples, and single parents. I’m surprised that the movie didn’t make a big splash simply because of that, considering that people were freaking out when there was a hinted homosexual relationship in the latest remake of Beauty and the Beast. But maybe that’s just adding to the fact at how much Storks seems to have been ignored.
The thing about coming across a movie like Storks is that, unlike some big budget and widely advertised film like Moana and Sing, there wasn’t anything there to really expect anything of. I’d say it benefited from lowered expectations, but rather it benefited from having no expectations at all. Heck, I planned on putting this movie on as a way to try to get me to fall sleep while on the plane, but instead it kept me awake and made me laugh. I enjoyed it enough to watch it again with a friend – partially to spread the joy and partially to see if my enjoyment of it wasn’t a hallucination brought on by 10 hours of plane-ride and 13 hours of jet-lag. Turns out, I still had fun watching it a second time around, and I would totally recommend giving it a watch. It’s a simple film and not trying to be as heavy or serious as Pixar nor is it so simple as to try to placate to a childish audience with potty humor. It has its own sense of style and unabashed randomness that comes across as endearing, honest, and just put out there to entertain.