It seems pedigree matters when it comes to animated family films. The really good ones rarely come out of left field and typically are a part of a familiar brand like Pixar, Disney, or Laika.
Warner Animation Group is looking to join this elite group and following their surprise hit “The Lego Movie” and now the highly enjoyable “Storks,” it looks like they are on the right track.
I understand two movies don’t really constitute a trend, but both films have a shared sensibility and goal, which is to be legitimately funny and then to wap you upside the head with some genuine and well-earned emotional moments.
“Storks” imagines a world where the titular long-legged birds once actually delivered babies, but have given it up to instead focus on package delivery for an Internet company called Cornerstore.com.
Ace deliverer Junior (Andy Samberg) is about to get a big promotion from company honcho Hunter (Kelsey Grammer) and all he has to do is fire Tulip (Katie Crown).
Tulip is the only human on Stork Mountain, a grown-up orphan from the baby-delivery days who, in spite of being full of good intentions, is a walking disaster area.
Junior can’t quite bring himself to fire Tulip, so instead, he gives her an assignment in the mailroom of the abandoned baby factory with the hope she will remain safely out of the way.
But things take a turn when Tulip actually gets a letter, one sent by a rambunctious boy (Anton Starkman), who requests a baby brother from the storks without the knowledge of his workaholic mom (Jennifer Aniston) and dad (Ty Burrell).
Tulip manages to use the letter to activate the dormant baby-making machine (don’t worry parents, this movie is not shooting for scientific accuracy) and out pops a bundle of joy; a development that would not only be a PR nightmare for the storks but almost certainly cost Junior his promotion.
So Tulip and Junior set out to deliver the baby before anybody can find out what has happened.
This super-high concept does wobble a bit as it tries to get off the ground, but once the show hits the road, the laughs start rolling in, along with some very sweet moments about what it means to be a family.
Warner Animation smartly has brought in funny people and let them do their thing. Writer/director Nicholas Stoller has a history in live-action as he shepherded the Muppets, reboot along with the “Neighbors” films. His comedic sensibilities are paired with co-director Doug Sweetland, whose animation background at Pixar ensures the movie looks terrific.
“Storks” has a free-wheeling feel, especially in the repartee between Samberg and Crown, not to mention comedians Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, who voice the leaders of a highly-ingenuous wolf pack intent on keeping the baby for themselves.
Not every joke lands, nor is every heartstring tugged, but enough do to make “Storks” a success and keep things trucking with the Warner Animation Group; and hopefully the dependable promise of more of the same to come.
“Storks” is rated PG for mild action and some thematic elements.