You can now check “watching birds on caffeine” off your bucket list.
I might have missed a scene where someone in Warner Animation Group’s sophomore effort consumes coffee, but maybe the drink was already drawn into them. Junior (Andy Samberg) is always mobile, delivering packages like a champ and is well on his way to be the next boss of Cornerstore.com. Then there’s Tulip (Katie Crown), a red-haired teenager who rarely stops to let the company’s assembly line run smoothly. Imagine how fast the film becomes when both must team up to deliver a baby whose presence is not—well, more like “no longer,” because storks don’t deliver babies anymore—authorized on factory grounds.
Backed by the duo behind “The Lego Movie” and under the direction of Nicholas Stoller from the “Neighbors” series, the humor is relentless and plenty. The problem is that the laughs are empty—they don’t propel the narrative; with the gags at a rapid pace, there’s little incentive for the mind to care for the main characters and plot.
Gluttony is a deadly sin that “Storks” committed, but it is always expressed with out-of-the-blue, manic creativity. Not everyday will you see maternity awaken mid-air and a character taking the question “How you like me now?” to a musical degree. The silent fight with the penguin band might have been considered, but “The Other Guys” did it first.
On a piece-by-piece level, “Storks” delivers a grand time. Comedy duo Key and Peele summon the juiciest laughs as leaders of the (quite literally) transformative wolf pack. They also have the screenplay’s most genuine “ha-has”—no need to resort to the weird, like brah-heavy Pigeon Toady (Stephen Glickman), no case of being underwritten like the Gardner family (whose youngest son’s wish to have a sibling kickstarts the plot) and no reliance on prolonged riffing (Samberg’s laid-back and Crown’s bubbly personalities are on great display here, but too often moments when Junior’s blasé trait clash with Tulip’s persistence verge on tedium.)
I’m sure the youngsters will appreciate the film starting in fifth gear and its commitment to stay there until the lights turn back on. They will giggle for sure, but there’s nothing meaningful to remember afterward. Although themes of familial love and making things whole are seen here, rather than weaving them into the plot as something discussion-worthy (à la adulthood with “Neighbors”) they seem, again, secondary to the constant squalls of humor. Effective or not, who cares? If it resembles comedy then it will be drawn.
Try to think that you are being tickled. You’ll laugh at first and eventually rage.
Cue the coffee to chill out (or does that only happen in commercials?).
Andy Samberg (Junior), Kelsey Grammer (Hunter), Katie Crown (Tulip), Jennifer Aniston (Mrs. Gardner), Ty Burrell (Mr. Gardner), Key and Peele (Wolf Pack)
Directed and written by: Nicholas Stoller (“Neighbors” series)
Co-directed by: Doug Sweetland (Pixar short “Presto”)
Music by: Jeff and Mychael Danna (“The Good Dinosaur”)
89 min., PG
Release date: Sept. 23
6.5 out of 10.