After the financial and critical success of The Lego Movie, Warner Animation Group sought to avoid a sophomore slump by enlisting a director famous for R-rated comedies (Nicholas Stoller of Forgetting Sarah Marshall fame) to helm a film about delivering a baby. Storks is a wry, silly, earnest animated comedy starring Andy Samberg as the voice of Junior, the top employee at an (almost) all-stork company that has transitioned from delivering babies to delivering packages for an Internet merchant. The shift came about after an incident involving a stork named Jasper (Danny Trejo), who became too attached to the baby he was supposed to deliver. That child grew up to be Tulip (Katie Crown), a well-meaning but clumsy factory worker who is the company's sole human employee, and whose bubbly nature masks a deep desire to find the family she never got to meet.
Hunter, a gruff, uncouth depiction of fowl-as-authority figure (Kelsey Grammer in a prime example of perfect voice casting), is prepared to give Junior his job as the company's boss while he ascends to a higher position -- with the understanding that Junior will "liberate" Tulip by firing her. Unable to terminate her on her birthday, he instead gives her an out-of-the-way position, which leads to her mistakenly fielding a baby request letter. Junior is now forced to deliver the child himself, with Tulip in tow, in order to keep his promotion.
Storks is the latest addition to the stable of heartfelt animated tales that use offbeat conceits and a steady rotation of quips and pratfalls to address the concerns of kids and preteens who are becoming cognizant of "grown-up problems." This work mostly stresses the importance of parents in a child's life, and how that connection shapes us later on down the road. The human family featured in the movie, the real-estate-agent Gardners (Ty Burrell and Jennifer Aniston) and their precocious son Nate (Anton Starkman), are certainly endearing, but the subplot about the family's bonds never builds to an adequately resonant conclusion.
To the film's credit, the proceedings primarily focus on Samberg, whose singular line readings and "harried man-child who is in over his head" persona recall some of Ben Stiller's best work. Junior, in a similar fashion to Samberg's Jake Peralta on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, is driven to please his boss because of deep-seated issues regarding his real father, and the SNL alum is able to transition seamlessly from wounded pride to humorously indignant retorts within a matter of moments. And the most successful comedic duo of the past few years, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, team up once again to voice the leaders of a fearsome wolf pack, whose hearts are melted by the cute baby traveling with their targets.
Remarkably, the biggest scene-stealer in the film is Stephen Kramer Glickman, a first-time voice actor who plays an ambitious and nosy co-worker of Junior's with an exaggerated bruh accent and a penchant for unintentionally daffy antics. Storks might touch on the significance of family, but it ultimately doesn't have any earth-shattering messages to share. The main takeaways seem to be that (a) babies are cute, (b) parents should bond with their kids, and (c) Andy Samberg being frazzled is just as funny when you can't see his face. None of these are controversial statements, but Stoller's efforts still work well enough that viewers of all ages can find something entertaining here. Storks may fall victim to sappiness and overused tropes at points, but its distinctive and irrepressibly goofy charm makes it worth seeing.