As you may already know, I love animation, but even I have to admit that there are too many coming out right now — which can result is unworthy ones getting a shake, and worthy ones getting lost in the mix.
Such is the case, I think, with Storks, whose uninspiring title and publicity campaign resulted in a soft opening box office take. But I hope, as with Zootopia (which also started slow), word of mouth results in it taking its rightful place as the heir of the Looney Tunes crown.
Storks is the first major release from W.A.G., which is not a dog tail company, but Warner Animation Group: a think tank for developing cartoon movies in the tradition of Bugs, Daffy, Porky, Road Runner etc. et al — but without acknowledging Bugs, Daffy, Porky, Road Runner etc. et al by image or name … only tone.
Storks clearly sets itself apart in that department almost immediately, using the speed of its dialog and sight gags to evoke the golden era of such screwball cartoon directors as Tex Avery (Screwy Squirrel), Bob Clampett (Porky in Wackyland), and Chuck Jones (Duck Amuck). It also evokes a Japanese anime sensibility by setting its story in an alternate universe where storks have segued from delivering babies to delivering Amazon-esque packages.
But when the lone abandoned baby reaches her 18th birthday and, rather than be fired, is assigned to the mail room by an ambitious (but secretly soft-hearted) stork, the stage is set for a world-hopping chase when she innocently sets an unexpectedly sent letter into the baby-making machine. Cuteness (babies! animals!) and craziness ensues at a break-neck (or at least break-wing) pace, resulting in inspired lunacy that fill the film’s 87 minutes (a fellow watcher nearly fell off his seat from laughing).
Director/Writer Nicholas Stoller (Get Him to the Greek) and co-director Doug Sweetland (an animator on many of Pixar’s greatest) conspire with voice stars Andy Samberg, Katie Crown, Kelsey Grammar, Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele for some truly breathless/breathtaking comedy patter and set-ups that pay off beautifully. There’s so much going on, in fact, that it wouldn’t have hurt to lose a stereotypical Stool Pigeon character, and, especially, a typecast Ty Burrell, playing nearly the same character as he does on Modern Family and realtor commercials.
But these are minor quibbles in a literally delightful film that both pays homage and reboots the Looney Tunes legacy. Besides, how can a movie that includes a nod to the Porky/Daffy classic Baby Bottleneck (YouTube it!) be bad?