By Michael Kaye
I am eternally grateful to Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who gave Warner Brothers Animation, rebranded as Warner Animation Group (WAG), Their first major hit with The Lego Movie. That was just the shot of adrenaline WB needed to launch a slew of projects led by top notch writers and directors looking to break into animation. Lord and Miller had a nice head start over at Sony with their adaptation of the popular children's book Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, but today it's writer and director Nicholas Stoller's turn, with the help of Pixar alumni Doug Sweetland as co-director and Brad Lewis as producer to bring us WAG's next potential hit, Storks!
Here's the story. Storks have moved on from delivering babies to packages. But when an order for a baby appears, the best delivery stork must scramble to fix the error by delivering the baby.
...What? Don't give me that look, if you anything about my sense of humor, than you'd know that this movie was practically tailor made for me. Don't worry, I'm not suggesting it's as good as Kubo or Zootopia, but dammit I'll go ahead and call this the funniest movie I've seen all year! Here are my positives and negatives.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
I'm actually going to start with the negatives first, because my biggest negative has nothing to do with the feature presentation, but the short that was attached at the beginning set in the Lego Ninjago world. Unlike most critics, I didn't think it was awful, but I can just feel Lord and Miller's absence in terms of the writing. I like Jackie Chan though, and he could very well be the driving force for the eventual feature length film, but as of right now I'm not getting as strong of a first impression with Ninjago as I got with the first Lego Movie. Who knows, maybe that was the point of attaching this short to the movie, to gauge audience reaction and do whatever they can to make it better. And for the record, this was supposed to come out this year, but they pushed it back and gave that release date to Storks. And now, your feature presentation.
Par for the course, we'll begin with the cast. What a fantastic ensemble we have here, but what impressed me the most were two actors who started off merely doing scratch vocals. One of them was relative newcomer Katie Crown as Tulip, an orphan who was never delivered to her family and has grown up on Stork Mountain, causing disaster at every opportunity. Her chemistry with Andy Sandberg as Junior was so good that she landed the lead role. I really hope she becomes a household name, if not in live action, then at the very least I want her in the same league as professional voice actresses like Tara Strong and Grey DeLisle, whose voice I almost thought that belonged to in the first teaser. The other promoted scratch vocalist was Stephen Kramer Glickman as the breakout character of the film, Pigeon Toady. We'll talk about the animation soon, but for right now, I really want to see a spin-off series of shorts starring Pigeon Toady as an incompetent detective. Going back to Andy Sandberg, this could not have been better casting, as his manic delivery was perfect for the character. Kelsey Grammer is great in everything, but as Hunter he's just awesome, especially whenever he says the word "BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSSSSSSSSS!" Key and Peele are great in this movie, not just playing Alpha and Beta Wolf, but the ENTIRE Wolf Pack. Other great performances include Danny Trejo as Jasper, Anton Starkman as Nate Gardner, and Ty Burrell and Jennifer Aniston as his parents Henry and Sarah.
The writing and directing are practically flawless. Nicholas Stoller is no stranger to comedy, as Forgetting Sarah Marshall and both Neighbors movies are some of my favorites of all time. But he's also no stranger to family films, as he's written the screenplays for both The Muppets and Muppets Most Wanted. Plus he's a dad, so he was in exactly the right headspace to come up with a story like this, as well as give us the greatest pay off at the end. Seriously, when I wasn't rolling on the floor laughing at the rapid fire jokes, I was legitimately invested in the story and the characters, which gives me hope that if they ever decide to pull the trigger on a 3D animated Looney Tunes movie, Stoller needs to be involved.
You know who else needs to be involved in that hypothetical Looney Tunes revival? Doug Sweetland, who's previous directorial effort was the Pixar short Presto, which was just an absolute delight. I love what he did in this movie, which was just bursting at the seams with creativity. This world they created looks incredible, and ideas like The Wolf Pack turning into bridges, submarines and a freaking minivan are absolutely hilarious. In case you think I'm crazy and that 3D animation would not work for the Looney Tunes, just take a look at Pigeon Toady's design, then put him next to Tweety or Henry Hawk and tell me he doesn't fit in.
Finally, the music by the Danna brothers Mychael and Jeff was amazing. Can it be a little manipulative? Sure, but what did you expect when you have a baby as the McGuffin? Not only that, but it does add that extra touch to the ending, which honestly got me a little teary eyed.
I hate to gloat, but I knew over a year ago that Storks was going to be at the very least good, but I wasn't expecting it to be as great as it was. Will I be upset if it doesn't make the cut for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars? Admittedly yes, but unlike The Lego Movie I promise not to make a big fuss over it. I'm just happy that WAG is gaining momentum, not just with the Lego franchise, but other upcoming projects including a reboot of Scooby-Doo titled S.C.O.O.B., which will hopefully kick off the Hanna-Barbera Cinematic Universe. There's also supposedly a movie directed by Paul King called Meet the Beatles, which I really hope sees the light of day. All that and much more can become a reality as long as you guys go out there and support this movie!
Now I want to hear from you guys. Have you seen Storks, and if so what did you think? Also, which upcoming projects are you most anticipating from WAG? Drop your thoughts in the comments below, and stay tuned for my next review, where I do something a little different by looking at both the original AND the 2016 remake of The Magnificent Seven!