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Monday, August 7, 2017

Storks (2016)

No one gets society like Warner Brothers Animation. Cartoon Network shows like Adventure Time and Steven Universe handle equality and representation, We Bare Bears and Regular Show handle(d) millennial culture and how technology impacts all of us, and on the big screen Storks addresses a little bit of both, corporate culture (including what an empire Amazon is becoming) and workaholism. If it sounds like The WB isn't making content for kids anymore, don't worry, they are and Storks is a return to that and a bit of their former looney-ness.

Storks answers the age-old question of where babies come from. Someone writes a letter to the stork, the baby factory automates the entire process, and storks deliver the bundles of joy. At least they used to. This was a failing business model, to say the least, but when a little boy asks for a little sibling (with ninja skills), and the baby factory is accidentally turned on it's, up to our main stork Junior (Andy Samberg) and his human co-worker Tulip (Katie Crown) to brush off that old employee handbook and go on an adventure.

The adventure is told at a fairly fast pace, if only because some of the dialogue is either a little expositional or on the nose. If these moments stretched the film out, it could've been painful. For instance, they have a locker room scene that demonstrates how career-focused Junior is, but they could've cut it and taken him almost directly to meeting his boss CEO Hunter (Kelsey Grammer) and no ounce of his character would've been lost. Instead, what we get is some reflective 21st Century water-cooler talk. It's so bad it's good, featuring a brown-nosing bro-pigeon (Stephen Kramer Glickman). It's something straight out of a "What Not To Do" LinkedIn article, and it's wonderful. A lot of the film is like that, with ridiculous profit charts, figuring out what being a boss means, and in-office golfing.

Anyway, out of the office, and in the suburbs, a couple of the same rules apply. That little boy, Nate (Anton Starkman) is the son of two workaholic parents (Ty Burrell, being very Phil Dunphy, and Jennifer Aniston, who doesn't do enough voice work). This sounds familiar, but Storks sets itself apart from most films by showing their whole home life, and not the parents' work life against Nate's home life. A baby isn't expected to magically just fix things if it shows up at the door.

The voice cast isn't just remarkable by name-recognition alone. In addition to those mentioned, Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key are the baby-loving wolves Alpha and Beta, and Danny Trejo as Jasper one of the last of the baby-delivering Storks.

Alpha and Beta, and their pack are something special. In pursuit of the baby, the comedy dream team of Key and Peele will form Voltron-like Wolf-Vehicles and objects by linking themselves together. This is straight out of Saturday-morning cartoons, and exactly what WB fans would expect...What they won't expect, however, is these beautiful, silly visuals were created by Sony.

Sony Imageworks, who has created some of the most photorealistic CGI in the last twenty-five years, animated this entire film. It's shocking until you see the one sequence the filmmakers decide to replay. Everything else is gorgeously built from scratch and Imageworks, even with nothing to prove, showed that old wolves could learn some fun tricks. The visuals are fast and cartoony. Hopefully, when Warners Brothers starts making CGI in-house, they marry their legacy with what Imageworks has blessed them with.

The animated penguin trend may have been on its last legs at this point, but Storks helped it finish strong | Copyright 2016 Warner Media

Finally, one note about the sound. The film's score, by Mychael and Jeff Danna, occasionally uses a comedic orchestra. This is usually a pretty funny gag, and most likely it typically uses stock audio. Storks does it more than once, and it's a surefire hit each time. More than likely these were fresh recordings, and when thinking about it, it sounds more and more like this film was a real collaborative experience for those involved.

If you can ignore the unintentional existential questions about overpopulation and unwanted children this film raises (just bury it deep down in the dark corners of the mind), enjoy Storks.