Welcome to the strange, and strangely moving, world of “Storks.” Writer-director Nicholas Stoller, known for adult comedies like “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “Neighbors,” delves into the family-friendly animated genre in a little movie about where babies come from.
Or where they used to come from. In this world, the old wives’ tale of storks delivering bouncing bundles of joy is real history, though the birds have been relegated to delivering packages for CornerStore.com after a stork became too attached to a baby.
Stoller teams up with animator Doug Sweetland for directing duties, and the story balances the fantasy world with more mundane realities. The film starts as a workplace sitcom, as our protagonist, Junior the stork (Andy Samberg), is fired up for a promotion from his boss (Kelsey Grammar). Unfortunately, accident-prone human orphan Tulip (Katie Crown) keeps getting in his way. She’s the baby at the center of the stork-attachment incident, and she’s been raised in the warehouse.
In the human world, Nate (Anton Starkman), an only child, wishes for a baby brother to play with, while his parents (Ty Burrell and Jennifer Aniston) are preoccupied with their real estate business. He discovers an old pamphlet for stork baby delivery, sends off a letter, and through Tulip’s misguided helpfulness, the baby factory is fired up once more. Like the CornerStore.com motto says, “Always Deliver!,” so Tulip and Junior find themselves on an adventure to get the new baby to the family and be back in time for StorkCon and Junior’s promotion.
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The story itself is standard — a quarreling odd couple learn about themselves and each other through a perilous journey — but Stoller embellishes the tone with bizarre gags and tangents that are silly enough to delight kids and parents alike, as well as fast and furious joke delivery from the voice talent. One of Junior’s undermining co-workers (Stephen Kramer Glickman) sports a surfer drawl and a mop of Trumpian orange hair; a wolf pack led by a pair voiced by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele can transform themselves into land and water vehicles.
“Storks” is at times cacophonous and overly busy, and the animation tends toward the goofily humorous rather than the spectacular. However, Stoller pulls off the third act with an emotional resolution that’s genuinely moving.
The emotional core of the film, with Junior and Tulip bonding through their adventures and making new friends along the way, is that family is what you make of it. Maybe a baby makes a family, but maybe friends are family; maybe family is bound by shared DNA; maybe family is a wolf pack. What matters is what you do with your family, how you spend time with them, show them that you care and share a life together. That this resonant a message comes in such a wildly weird and funny package is as oddly pleasant as you can imagine.
Rated PG for mild action and some thematic elements. 1:29. 2D and 3D: Fayette Mall, Frankfort, Georgetown, Hamburg, Nicholasville, Richmond, Winchester.