At first glance, I didn’t have much hype for this. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a cutsie movie that exists to only be a cutsie movie, but then again, considering that we were unfortunately given NORM OF THE NORTH (2016) and THE WILD LIFE (2016) this year, I wasn’t banking on it being that bad. And with the final trailer out, yeah, I still didn’t have the highest of hopes for it being anything amazing, I was hoping for something solid. But then I did a dollar tree-worth amount of research and I discovered something pretty cool: one of the core characters, Tulip, is voiced by Katie Crown. Who’s that you might ask? An actual voice actress! As in, she’s not a traditional celebrity, like Andy Samberg or Jennifer Aniston. No, her career is almost nothing but cartoons like the Total Drama series and CLARENCE. Now that I really look at her IMDb page, she’s a veteran of CartoonNetwork. Anyway, the point I’m making is… that never happens. Professional voice actors in feature-length films on the big screen are usually relegated to “additional voices” credits, or glorified cameos, even though professional voice actors are significantly more talented. That’s really awesome for Crown.
But I think the biggest reason why I wasn’t hyped for this reason. For those of you that don’t know, I’m the biggest sucker for adoption stories. Primarily because I’m adopted myself. So movies like, MARTIAN CHILD (2007), DESPICABLE ME (2010), PETE’S DRAGON (2016), and elements of the Kung Fu Panda films and THE GOOD DINOSAUR (2015), these movies are cinematic injections of emotion for me. So I’m always afraid that when a new movie comes along like this, I’m horrified of going in and it’s not done justice. These movies are either cinematic gold, or about the most offensive stories that you can get wrong. To be fair, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a “bad” adoption movie. Maybe ORPHAN (2009), but that was a horror movie and we all know how I feel about those in general.
But enough of my blithering. Let’s take a look at the voice talent. Crown is the only name mainstream audiences might not know, but picking up the slack is Samberg (the Hotel Transylvania movies, POPSTAR , and TV show BROOKLYN NINE-NINE), Aniston (MOTHER’S DAY , THE IRON GIANT , and TV show FRIENDS), Kelsey Grammer (NEIGHBORS 2 , X-MEN: THE LAST STAND , and TV show FRAISER), and many more.
Now behind the scenes. Writing and co-directing is Nicholas Stoller (both Neighbors films, FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL , and GET HIM TO THE GREEK ). Quite the change of pace if you ask me. All those raunchy comedies and then swinging to a kids movie. Interesting. Stoller’s partner-in-action! is Doug Sweetland, making his feature film debut. Congrats, sir. Finally, composing is Jeff and Mychael Danna (THE GOOD DINOSAUR, THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS , and TV show TYRANT).
I’m going in with mixed emotions. I’m obviously hoping it’ll be good, but I guess we shall see.
This is my honest opinion of: STORKS
Once, storks delivered babies. But that job became too much of a hassle and eventually decided to deliver packages instead, like cell phones and other things. Junior (voiced by Andy Samberg) is a hotshot delivery stork who’s caught the eye of the company’s owner, Hunter (voiced by Kelsey Grammer), who wants to promote him to boss of the company as he himself moves higher in the corporate ladder. His only condition, he has to fire Tulip (voiced by Katie Crown), the sole teenage girl that works with the storks, orphaned after a crazed stork damaged her beacon that would take her to her family. Now that she’s turning eighteen years old, she has to be “liberated.” Also because she’s an inventor who only wants to help the storks, she winds up causing a lot of damage. So Hunter wants her gone. But Junior can’t fire her and tries to hide her away from everyone, in the abandoned letter factory, where people would write to the storks and their baby would be made. Meanwhile, among the general populace, is the Gardner family, specifically the young boy Nate (voiced by Anton Starkman). His parents are always too busy to play with him, so he comes across an old add of the storks and writes a letter for a baby brother. He sends it, Tulip receives it, and heads to the baby factory where a baby is made, much to the dismay of Junior, who tries to stop her, but fails. In order to correct his mistakes, he and Tulip go on a journey to take the baby to it’s family while avoiding Hunter and his minions as well as other dangers.
Well, the marketing team needs a slap on the wrist because this movie is far better than I had thought.
First off, can I just applaud Crown for such a fun and wonderful performance? Jeez, this is the reason why I’ve complained for years that professional voice actors are far better for animated movies. They have a wider arsenal of talent than most celebrities. Why would you hire Samberg? To play the surfer dude type that’s dorky and or ditzy. I guarantee you, voice actors like Steve Blume or John DiMaggio could not only play that role better, but could play multiple roles with widely different voices and the average movie-goer wouldn’t be the wiser. Crown gives the perfect example of this. There’s this scene where Junior hides Tulip in the letter room, under the guise that she’s head of the department, and she gets SO bored that she starts talking to herself, playing characters that are just her, with different hair styles and voices. It’s so entertaining to watch. Don’t get me wrong, I love Amy Poehler and Bill Hader as much as the next bloke, but nothing beats a classic Jennifer Hale or Nolan North. I hope to see this turn into a trend in future animated films and it’d be nice to know that Crown spearheaded that. All in all, Crown is great.
It doesn’t end with her either. The film’s villains are hysterical. Grammer as Hunter is the perfect ruthless businessman. His design, while still a stork, seems so much bigger and more intimidating than any other stork, he reminds me more of a hawk. Somehow, I don’t think that was an accident. Either way, awesome. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the alpha and beta wolves, voiced by none other than the ever popular Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele. Oh my lord, these guys are brilliant; downright phenomenal. They play the wolf pack (more on them in a bit) leaders that immediately fall in love with the baby that needs to be delivered to its family. They declare it an honorary wolf, naming her “tiny thing” for the rest of the movie, but Junior and Tulip rescue her and are constantly chased by the wolves as a result.
Since we’re talking about the wolves… they shouldn’t have worked. I looked at the trailer and they “take the forms of” boats, submarines, and, I’m not kidding here, mini vans. They literally join together to make vehicles. It should have been a shark jump for me; being way too silly. But then I thought to myself, yeah, it’s a kids movie that made a world where storks delivering babies is a thing. Worse ideas have been made… like twerking polar bears voiced by Rob Schneider with terrible animation that makes the original Scooby Doo cartoons look like AVATAR (2009), but I digress. This is about a much better animated kids movie.
In all honesty, this movie has a lot of elements that shouldn’t have worked. Usually, I’m not a fan of Samberg. His HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA (2012) character was annoying. He was tolerable in the sequel mostly because he wasn’t in it as much. He’s a fine actor in his live-action work, but voice-acting… he tries too hard. Here, he’s not as annoying as he in the first HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA, but he does start off that bad. But he’s written so much better in this flick that I do eventually warm up to Junior as the movie progresses and… yeah, I got choked up at the end. It’s like he realized half way through the movie that he can deliver lines like a normal person and still come across as genuine, as opposed to trying to sound genuine.
And *GASP* oh my god, all the self-aware humor busted my gut! I don’t know what it is, but when movies have elements that are so stupid, even a character calls it out, I just can’t help but giggle. Junior wants to avoid a conversation while on a raft, he’ll stab the raft with a random knife to stop it, Tulip will be completely dumbfounded and ask where he even got the knife. Nate’s mom (voiced by Jennifer Aniston) wants to knock down their chimney, she grabs a sledgehammer and obliterates it. As the dust settles, she’s all, “Oh wow, that was not a well constructed chimney. It got destroyed destroyed so easily. I’m actually a pretty small build, so that’s kind of shocking,” gah! I love humor like that, it just makes me so happy and this movie is marinated in it.
Believe me, I want to get into every single aspect of what I loved about this movie, but if I did, everything would be spoiled. So let’s move on to the less than funny bits. Yeah, for all the excellent execution, there are still a few uh-ohs. For example, Pidgeon Toady (voiced by Stephen Kramer Glickman) is pretty ear-bleedingly annoying. He’s that character that has to go, “Hey, brah! What up, brah!? That’s cool, brah!” It’s about as obnoxious as you can get. But in a way, even that isn’t SO bad considering how over the top the rest of the movie is, so in some scenes, his over the top speech choices are acceptable.
Honestly, the more I thought about the movie, the more I started to love it. While it’s not quite an adoption story that I had thought it would kind of be, it’s still a story about finding family and those are close enough that still have me weeping with happiness. But if anyone came up to me and told me that they didn’t like it, yeah, I can probably see why. But there was too much that this movie did right and so much of the humor tailored to my sense of humor that I can’t help but highly recommend it to everyone. Again, I loved it. I saw it once, but I look forward to seeing it again.
My honest rating for STORKS: 5/5