Forget finding Dory and stop worrying about the secret life of your pets. “Storks” is the best animated film to be released so far this year. That’s saying a lot because it’s been a banner year for animation.
“Storks” manages to deliver on many levels, from broad comedy to a sweet family story. There’s a lot going on in this tale of a world where storks have been taken off baby delivery and made to deliver packages from a superstore. But directors Nicholas Stoller and Doug Sweetland layer the elements in such a way that one just makes the other stronger.
One story element surrounds the efforts by Junior (Andy Samberg) to make sure nothing stops him from getting a big promotion. The menacing Hunter (Kelsey Grammer) is ready to turn over the reins of the delivery company.
That plan could fall apart after Tulip (Katie Crown), an orphaned baby raised by the storks, is involved in an unplanned baby arrival that must be delivered. Their efforts to get the baby to the proper home and the problems they face on the journey are an energetic and whimsical tale.
The key to success for any animated movie is how well it will entertain youngsters, and this movie does that perfectly. It is a fast-paced story told by characters who are big and loud. You can fall in love with the big-eyed babies or root for a wolf pack that has taken building gizmos to a major level.
It wouldn’t be a shock to see the cleverly industrious wolves in their own movie.
The other layer that works so well is the family angle, centered on a endlessly working couple (Jennifer Aniston, Ty Burrell) who have ignored their son (Anton Starkman) to the point he longs for a baby brother for accompaniment.
His letter to the storks to deliver that bundle of joy sets off chaos within the storks. It also opens up a very sweet story about family and how important it is to make the most of the short time parents and their children have together.
That storyline is presented in a quirky enough fashion that while it screams of sentimentality for older moviegoers, youngsters will not get bored.
There is not a single boring moment in the film. The directors have set the speed dial to maximum, played out against a backdrop that is lush with color made all that more visually splendid by the use of darker areas not usually seen in animated films.
Whether the backgrounds are as big as a Death Star landing bay or as small as a wolves’ den, the details, textures and colors are visual treats.
Even the voice talents are flawless, from Crown’s whiplash-speed portrayal of Tulip to the grandiose way Grammer delivers his evil mandates. Burrell also is perfectly cast as the dad/real estate agent. His work gives that part of the movie a modern family feel.
It has been such a strong year for animation that it would take a movie with nearly flawless voice casting, story and animation to stand out in the crowd. “Storks” is a definite standout.
Cast: Andy Samberg, Jennifer Aniston, Ty Burrell, Kelsey Grammer, Katie Crown, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele.
Director: Nicholas Soller, Doug Sweetland
Rating: PG (mild violence)
Opens: Friday, Sept. 23