By Bill Wine
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The reliable answer to the age-old question, “Where do babies come from?,” gets a much-needed rest, courtesy of a spiffy animated adventure.
Simply and directly, it’s called Storks.
According to which, storks used to deliver babies, but now only deliver packages.
That’s the premise of this ostensibly family-friendly fable.
It’s a comedy that posits that in modern times, the storks have switched from infants to packages and are giving their numerous competitors a run for their money as a global Internet giant.
So the storks on Stork Mountain no longer get orders for babies at Cornerstore.com.
Aha: but that’s exactly what happens to trigger the fanciful plot.
Eighteen-year-old Orphan Tulip, as she’s called, voiced by Katie Crown, is the only human on Stork Mountain, having been left there as a youngster.
Sometimes she’s a problem. And this is one of those times.
Why? Because back on Earth among the humans, there is a young boy named Nate (Anton Starkman) who longs for a sibling. And for that reason, so do his parents (Jennifer Aniston and Ty Burrell), who don’t spend much quality time with Nate because of their demanding real estate business.
Nate finds a Cornerstore.com brochure and writes and mails a letter to them, which Tulip responds to by putting it in the baby-making machine.
She hopes that if she helps this baby find her family as part of the proverbial visit from the stork, perhaps Tulip will one day find her family as well.
This doesn’t sit well with the Cornerstore.com CEO, voiced by Kelsey Grammer, who puts Junior, the company’s top delivery stork, in charge of cleaning up the mess.
Consequently, Tulip and Junior must race to make their first-ever baby drop and scramble to fix the error, thus completing one particular human family and restoring the storks’ previous mandate and mission.
For Junior, much is at stake because he is up for a promotion that could find him running the company.
But because of the inadvertent activation of the baby-making machine, an act that results in the creation of an adorable but unauthorized baby girl, his promotion may be in jeopardy.
The script comes from Nicholas Stoller, who usually works in live-action comedies for grownups (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek, The Five-Year Engagement, Neighbors, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising) and who shares the director credit with animator Doug Sweetland, making his directing debut.
The convoluted narrative, which youngsters in the target audience may not appreciate, may be a case of too many chefs – or is it storks? – spoiling the broth because disparate elements are combined in a way that seems arbitrary.
A few sight gags register decently, but narrative momentum is minimal. There’s a frenetic energy that’s offered as an alternative to footage that truly connects with the audience.
Underneath all the silliness is a heartfelt tribute to the miracle of babyhood as well as a reminder of the importance of family and of children’s need for loving attention even when the struggle to balance work and family seems a losing proposition.
But it’s tough to detect and recognize those well-intentioned themes above the din.
So we’ll give birth to 2 stars out of 4. Storks achieves liftoff, but then struggles with its own delivery.