Parents tell their kids that storks deliver babies because their own parents told them the same thing. The fable isn’t manipulative in the same manner of Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny luring children into looking forward to religious holidays vis-à-vis candy and toys. Instead, it’s a legacy of punting on one of the most basic facts about human existence, all because we somehow collectively believe it to be healthier to not talk about what Kindergarten Cop’s pint-sized Joseph knew all too well: that it’s healthier to indulge in infantilism than work on a solid foundation of emotional awareness. (And we wonder why some grown men need to dress in diapers to get off.)
That said, sex can benefit from a connection to frivolity and playfulness. So maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world that Storks, the new film from the Warner Animation Group, doesn’t take many cues from Pixar’s tear-jerking playbook. In fact, it fitfully benefits from its lack of gravity, as does the film’s depiction of Cornerstone, the stork flock’s Amazon-like superstore perched above the clouds at the top of Stork Mountain. The store’s days delivering babies are long gone, and now the storks dedicate their efforts to delivering Fitbits, laundry detergent, stoneware, and everything else but babies.
It’s never clear exactly why Cornerstone CEO Hunter (Kelsey Grammer) is so firmly against the infant market, nor does the film explain how any babies were born after the superstore switches to packages, unless the entire world came to the immediate, logical conclusion that they needed to procreatively start banging henceforth. But the trade-off for that lack of clarity is a film that aims—and, largely, fails—to approach the exhilaratingly engineered soullessness of The Lego Movie. (That cake-and-eat-it-too masterpiece’s writer-directors, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, served as executive producers here.) Storks isn’t clever enough, nor does it have the entire history of licensed pop-culture touchstones to populate its cast, to achieve The Lego Movie’s impenetrable synergy…er, energy.
But even given its insipid A-story involving management-bound Junior’s (Andy Samberg) burgeoning and promotion-threatening affection for human orphan Tulip (Katie Crown), who was the last baby off the assembly line before it was shut down, Storks’s zany thrust occasionally wins out.