Directors: Nicholas Stoller, Doug Sweetland
Cast: Andy Samberg, Katie Crown, Kelsey Grammer
Watch Storks online in the UK: iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Google Play
“Five more minutes and then we’ll stop.” That’s the catchphrase of the parents of Nate (Anton Starkman), a boy who wants nothing more than somebody to play with. His mum and dad (Jennifer Aniston and Ty Burrell) are too busy rushing about doing work to stop and spend time with their son, so he does what all innocent kids would: he writes a letter to the stork.
The only problem? The storks are busy too. Not delivering babies: they’ve given up that to focus on an online retail business, Cornerstore.com, which has grown to Amazon-like proportions, thanks to its high-tech flying delivery service. Their star employee? Junior (Samberg), a high-flying bird whose stern boss (Kelsey Grammer, enjoying himself immensely) can’t wait to promote to become his successor – presumably because of some unspoken corruption scandal that’s destined to bring the company down.
It’s the kind of corporate satire you’d expect from The LEGO Movie, and it’s telling that Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are producers here: as Warners’ relatively new push into a crowded animation landscape continues, that rapid-fire knack for smart silliness is hyperactive enough to stand out from the pack. It’s equally telling, though, that the LEGO duo aren’t the ones doing the writing: Nicholas Stoller’s script feels more scatterbrained than scattershot, throwing in everything but the kitchen sink in an attempt to get off the ground – all items, no doubt, bought straight from Cornerstore.
Nonetheless, there’s a charming sincerity to the mayhem, which sees Nate’s letter accidentally resurrect the storks’ baby-making machine, leaving Junior with the task of delivering the company’s first baby in decades. He’s joined by Tulip (Crown), an orphan who has been dumped in the antiquated letters department but is all too keen to prove herself, right down to building a machine so she can fly too.
Will the career-driven Junior learn to appreciate things that aren’t work? Will Tulip find her sense of family? And will the baby make it ok? There are no points for guessing how it all turns out, but Stoller serves up just enough surprises along the way to keep things unpredictable: an encounter with a wolf pack is a delightful piece of nonsensical pack behaviour and witty choreography, while a set piece that sees Junior having to navigate a room of glass (which is invisible to birds) is masterfully edited into a montage of concentrated slapstick. Katie Crown’s Tulip, meanwhile, is the kind of fast-talking sidekick who will steal your heart with her shifting voices and barely concealed loneliness.)
A subplot involving corporate brown-noser Pigeon Toady (Stephen Glickman) doesn’t know where to stop (although one musical number arrives hilariously out of the blue), but that blend of chaotic silliness and sweet sentiment – Stoller, let’s not forget, directed The Muppets – is impossible to dislike. The result feels right at home alongside that cartoon about the little yellow bricks, although it lacks the latter’s profound depths; the sugary pop music that accompanies the climax feels too overdone to be fully moving. Nonetheless, the message here about finding your flock is undeniably endearing. In a crowded landscape of often mediocre animated fare, parents can rest easy: Storks is fun, funny and enjoyably frothy stuff, and it doesn’t dispel the stork legend for younger viewers. Five more minutes, mums and dads will say. Then we’ll stop watching.
Storks is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.
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