dir Nicholas Stoller, Doug Sweetland
scr Nicholas Stoller
prd Brad Lewis, Nicholas Stoller
voices Andy Samberg, Katie Crown, Kelsey Grammer, Anton Starkman, Jennifer Aniston, Ty Burrell, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Danny Trejo, Stephen Kramer Glickman, Chris Smith, Awkwafina
release US 23.Sep.16, UK 14.Oct.16
16/US Warner 1h27
Nonstop action: Junior and Tulip with their parcel

samberg grammer aniston
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Storks With visual panache and a smarter-than-average script, this animated adventure may be too frenetic for its own food, but there are some resonant themes lurking under the hilariously wacky dialog and action. It's also infused with a joyfully improvisational sensibility that makes the movie both unpredictable and entertaining.

Nearly 20 years ago, storks shifted from delivering babies to parcels. And with boss Hunter (Grammer) becoming board chairman, Junior (Samberg) is given one last assignment to prove he's ready to be boss: he needs to sack Tulip (Crown), a far-too-keen human left over from the old regime. But she has inadvertently fired up the baby factory and answered a request from Nate (Starkman) to bring a brother to his workaholic parents (Aniston and Burrell). And now Junior and Tulip need to deliver the infant before Hunter's devious spy Pigeon Toady (Glickman) finds out.

The deranged chaos makes the film thoroughly likeable, as every scene devolves into complete mayhem, and the characters are unexpected and very funny. There's a pair of bickering arctic wolves voiced by Key and Peele that add a bit of violent tension, although they're too funny to be properly scary. And Trejo adds pathos as Tulip's tenacious, haunted guardian. The story is a barrage of outrageously silly set-pieces that make very little logical sense, but everything feels true to the spirited premise.

Voice work has a looser tone than most animated comedies, as if the actors are properly bouncing off each other. This gives the characters an extra zing, with a barrage of throwaway jokes that keep the grown-ups chuckling. Meanwhile, the animators go for broke, with outrageously whooshing action sequences that aren't always easy to take in due to their complexity. Not that it matters when the tone is this offhanded. And the array of colours, textures and settings is a delight.

But what makes the film memorable is its deeper touches, most notably in Nate's yearning for a little brother to grow up with. Getting the attention of his parents is a serious project, and once they all grab hold of the idea, there's a lovely sense of expectation and bonding. Meanwhile, Tulip has her own moment of discovery as she taps into own instincts. As does Junior, although the resolutely boyish filmmakers shy away from letting him explore his maternal side. But they clearly understand the power of an adorable baby on almost anybody, and they work it to maximum effect.

cert pg themes, language, violence 2.Oct.16

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© 2016 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall