After a raucous, wildly slapstick and very funny Lego short that’s tacked on to the beginning of “Storks,” everything goes retro, at least in the plot’s main subject area. Watch out, parents. If you want your young kids to understand what’s going on here, you’re first going to have to reverse decades of sex education about, you know, where babies come from.
The “Storks” story suggests that at one time, if a wannabe dad and mom desired a child, they would simply write a letter — that’s a letter, not an email — to the Stork Delivery Service, then wait for one of the big white birds to swoop through the skies, stop at the right house and drop off the bundle of joy.
But, and this is not explained very well in the movie, business went bad, and the bean counters up on Stork Mountain decided that UPS and FedEx had the right idea. So they underwent a change in direction, opting to deliver retail packages for Cornerstore.com rather than babies to “expectant” moms and dads.
The film immediately looks at two sides of what’s happened since then. The package business is booming, and its no-nonsense boss stork, Hunter (voice of Kelsey Grammer) is being kicked upstairs, while ambitious manager type stork Junior (Andy Samberg) is about to become the new boss ... if he follows through on one last assignment: Firing (sorry, “liberating”) the only human working on Stork Mountain, the excitable, energetic, and usually in-the-way Tulip (Katie Crown), who’s only there because she was “orphaned” 18 years earlier while she was on the way to be delivered. But gentle Junior is no heartless Hunter, and he can’t bring himself to “liberate” her, so he secretly puts her in charge of the defunct, never-used letter sorting department.
Then it’s on to the complementing story. Over in some suburban enclave, young Nate is tired of and unhappy about being ignored by his workaholic parents, and wants a little brother. He discovers there was once a Stork Delivery Service, and writes them a letter. And there it is. Someone uses the old-fashioned method of requesting a baby via the mail, and someone else, who has nothing to do at work because no mail comes any more, gets a letter. Overjoyed — and over-energetic — Tulip does what she thinks she’s supposed to do, and accidentally activates the old Baby Factory. This does not go well with the package people, and could put the kibosh on Junior’s promotion.
What follows is sight gag city, with one after another of them piling on, as Junior and Tulip team up to do what they feel they must: Get that baby to the household that requested it, then get back to business as usual. Most of the gags work really well; some fall flat. Different viewers will feel that the film takes too much time with certain characters, such as an old stork named Jasper, and something called Pigeon Toady, and gives short shrift to others, especially a goofy creation called the Wolf Pack, which is responsible for the funniest and most imaginative moments. (To be fair, there’s plenty of the Wolf Pack; I selfishly wanted even more.)
The film’s bright comic edge briefly goes away for a “serious” turn (seriously, why do all of these films do that?) as Tulip tries to find the parents she was long ago supposed to be delivered to, and a hero goes up against a villain. But as soon as there’s a great and kind of gutsy visual gag about penguins that will make adults laugh and will scare young kids, the humor is back on track.
In the end, the Zero Population Growth crowd is not going to be thrilled by the baby-filled conclusion of “Storks.” And while it’s not exactly a by-the-numbers movie, it is sort of standard issue animation fare, never rising to the levels of the best of them. It is, however, a lot of fun to look at and listen to.
— Ed Symkus covers movies for More Content Now.