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Storks: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Review

Storks (2016) movie poster Storks

Theatrical Release: September 23, 2016 / Running Time: 87 Minutes / Rating: PG

Directors: Nicholas Stoller, Doug Sweetland / Writer: Nicholas Stoller

Voice Cast: Andy Samberg (Junior), Katie Crown (Orphan Tulip), Kelsey Grammer (Hunter), Jennifer Aniston (Sarah Gardner), Ty Burrell (Henry Gardner), Anton Starkman (Nate Gardner), Keegan-Michael Key (Alpha Wolf), Jordan Peele (Beta Wolf), Danny Trejo (Jasper), Stephen Kramer Glickman (Pigeon Toady), Chris Smith (Dougland), Awkwafina (Quail), Ike Barinholtz (Miscellaneous Storks), Jorma Taccone (Miscellaneous Storks), Amanda Lund (Miscellaneous Storks)

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Warner Bros. Pictures releases more movies than any of the other major studios, so it is surprising and peculiar that they have not managed to find consistent success in feature animation while most of the others have enjoyed thriving departments over the past ten to fifteen years. Yes, the same Warner Bros. that for a long time was the direct competition to Disney with their various Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts
has had a spotty record in the lucrative world of CG-animated family comedies. They've had a couple of hits (2006's Oscar-winning Happy Feet and 2014's widely beloved The Lego Movie) and a number of flops (including Happy Feet Two, The Ant Bully, and Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole). What they haven't had is enough consistency to establish them as a brand comparable to Illumination Entertainment, Sony Pictures Animation, DreamWorks, Blue Sky, Pixar and Disney.

Clearly, Warner is working on that with the formation of the Warner Animation Group. The think tank's first release, The Lego Movie, is being cultivated into a franchise that will extend to February's theatrical The Lego Batman Movie. Meanwhile, they're emphasizing their success by marketing Storks as being from "the studio that delivered The Lego Movie." Yes, there's a birth pun there and others throughout Storks. But the storks of Storks no longer deliver human babies to expectant families. Now, they deliver orders from Cornerstore.com (a domain inexplicably not purchased by the studio).

In Storks, Orphan Tulip and Junior have a pink-haired baby they have to deliver the old-fashioned way.

Our protagonist is an ambitious but easygoing worker stork named Junior (voiced by Andy Samberg). He's looking at a promotion from his blowhard boss Hunter (Kelsey Grammer) if he can do just one thing: fire Orphan Tulip (Katie Crown), the awkward, red-headed 18-year-old human who hangs around the company's warehouse threatening productivity and profitability with her every move. Tulip's unusual failed delivery drove the storks out of the baby delivering business. Junior doesn't have the heart to fire her, though, instead assigning her to some long-abandoned mail department. Tulip still manages to make trouble there, as she accidentally turns a child's request for a younger brother into one pink-haired human girl, who needs to be brought to her new family. Tulip and Junior together assume the task, quickly becoming more like surrogate parents than just a pair of delivery people.

That is one layer of Storks. Another is the family for which the pink-haired infant is destined. It consists of a pair of workaholic realtors (Ty Burrell and Jennifer Aniston) and their mildly neglected son Nate (Anton Starkman), who puts in the request for a brother. He gets his parents to take time off and make over their house to be ready for the storks' forthcoming delivery.

That delivery, of course, is anything but direct. Various episodic misadventures delay Junior and Tulip's trip, from wolves (voiced by Key and Peele) who are disarmed by the baby's adorable nature to Jasper (Danny Trejo), the rogue stork responsible for Tulip's orphan status.

Oh, and if one character is designed to steal the show, it's Pigeon Toady (Stephen Kramer Glickman), a gnarly "brah" with an imitable way of speaking and being annoying. Think Finding Nemo's Crush for a new generation. At least, that is the hope.

The Gardner family -- Nate and his realtor parents -- await the delivery of a baby from above.

Storks is written and co-directed by Nicholas Stoller, who has had success with R-rated Apatovian comedies (Neighbors, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) as well as with 2011's utterly endearing The Muppets reboot which he co-wrote with Jason Segel. Stoller does not seem particularly well suited for the animated family comedy,
even with veteran Pixar animator Doug Sweetland sharing director duties. Storks looks like a mainstream major studio family comedy. The generic designs could easily be mistaken for the work of Sony Pictures Animation or even DreamWorks. And the movie aims for the same type of two-for-kids, one-for-adults distribution of jokes.

Whether that formula has grown stale or Stoller just doesn't bring a sharp enough wit to the table, Storks falls short. It tries too hard to entertain you, only to lose your interest as its plot fails to make much sense at all. An average CG family comedy, like DreamWorks' Home or the recent Angry Birds Movie, tends to divert enough to make it quite watchable. That makes Storks a below average production, one you may find extremely difficult to warm to, whether it's aiming to tickle your funny bone or hoping to tug on your heartstrings.

Storks was not the big draw that many other mainstream family cartoons are. It opened in second place handily behind The Magnificent Seven and even decent legs only took the $70 million production to a domestic gross of $72 million, which foreign markets matched one and a half times. Clearly, among animation, this occupied the huge middle ground between the year's huge hits (Finding Dory, The Secret Life of Pets, Zootopia, Moana) and the underperformers (Laika's Kubo and the Two Strings and foreseeable duds like Norm of the North and Ratchet & Clank).

With those numbers killing any hopes the studio might have had for a sequel, Storks hit home video this week as a potentially inviting last-minute Christmas gift.

Storks: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 7.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Descriptive Video Service, French, Latin Spanish, Mexican Spanish, Portuguese)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, Descriptive Service, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish; BD-only: Portuguese
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: December 20, 2016
Suggested Retail Price: $35.99
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as 2-Disc DVD ($28.98 SRP), 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital HD ($44.95 SRP), and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

The video and audio section of these reviews has practically become superfluous for new films. Everything exists digitally prior to Blu-ray and in the case of animated movies, the native form is what's on the computer. That explains why Storks is simply the latest in a long line of CGI films given direct digital transfers that are as perfect as the technology holding it allows. The 2.40:1 widescreen presentation and 7.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack leave nothing to be desired that Blu-ray can provide. There is also a 3D combo pack and a 4K Ultra HD edition if those the kind of formats you're into

Pigeon Toady is not qualified to teach baby-raising, but he does it anyway in "Pigeon Toady's Guide to Baby's (sic)." A chicken upstages a warrior in "The Master: A Lego Ninjago Short."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Storks' Blu-ray extras begin with an audio commentary by directors Douglas Sweetland and Nicholas Stoller, editor John Venzon, and head of story Matt Flynn. They give some general and technical information, with Stoller giving the perspective of a live-action filmmaker's first-time in animation. There is plenty of conversation about the length and nature of production,
discoveries made from test screenings, unlikely influences (e.g. Total Recall) and the divisive nature of Pigeon Toady and his accent. That makes this a little more interesting than your average commentary, but quiet spells do occur from time to time.

On the video side, we start with a likely contender for 2016's most brah-tastic bonus feature: "Storks: Guide to Your New Baby", whose more accurate onscreen title is "Pigeon Toady's Guide to Baby's" [sic] (2:08). In this original animated short, the scene-stealing brah dispenses some questionable advice on raising babies.

Next up is Storks' theatrical accompaniment, The Master: A Lego Ninjago Short (5:18). This irreverent 'toon sees warrior Master Wu (voiced by Jackie Chan) repeatedly upstaged by a chicken. Employing Groundhog Day-style repetition, this short is as entertaining as anything in Storks, but that's not necessarily a glowing endorsement.

The music video for Jason Derulo's "Kiss the Sky" (3:46) simply sets the evidently Oscar-ineligible (and rather forgettable) tune to clips from the movie.

The baby-stealing incident features in this alternate opening presented as the first of deleted scenes. The antics of stork boss Hunter (voiced by Kelsey Grammer) feature in the outtakes reel.

A reel of deleted scenes (10:05) can be viewed with or without audio commentary. Presented mostly in animated story reel form (with just a touch of wireframe animation), these handful of deletions include an alternate opening inspired by The Incredibles, a version of the Storks business from when it was still modeled after military culture rather than corporate culture. There's also a gag involving Pigeon Toady and a used diaper.

Finally, "Outtakes" (2:14) supplies a reel of fully-animated filmmaking goofs like the Pixar gag reels of yore.
Alternate Pigeon Today broisms are probably the highlight.

The DVD only gets The Master (the Lego Ninjago short, not the Paul Thomas Anderson feature film) and the "Kiss the Sky" music video. That's got to be disappointing for anyone still using DVD as their go-to movie format. Depriving them of that two-minute Pigeon Toady short is a cruel and unusual punishment, especially since the disc is extremely far from dual-layered capacity, having about 2 GB of additional space it could have used.

The discs open with a trailer for The Lego Batman Movie and promos for 4K Ultra HD, Harry Potter/Fantastic Beasts, and Scooby-Doo!: Shaggy's Showdown.

The main menu applies score to a poster design that could have functioned as cover art.

Topped by an embossed slipcover bearing similar artwork, the orange DVD and pink Blu-ray share an eco-friendly keepcase with a digital HD code/4K Ultra HD ad insert.

The imitable Pigeon Toady breaks out into a music video for The Heavy's "How You Like Me Now?"

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Storks doesn't stand out in many ways, except for being a few notches below the usually satisfactory standard for American CGI family comedies. Rarely amusing and never as moving as it wants to be, this cartoon is colorful and fairly child-friendly without being particularly enjoyable or all that memorable.

Warner's combo pack has decent bonus features on Blu-ray, but most will probably deem the movie at best a one-time viewing.

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New to Disc: Sully Pete's Dragon (2016) Space Jam (20th Anniversary Edition) The BFG The Jungle Book (2016) (Collector's Edition)
Written by Nicholas Stoller: The Muppets Muppets Most Wanted Zoolander 2 Yes Man Gulliver's Travels Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
Warner Bros. Animation: The Lego Movie TMNT

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Reviewed December 23, 2016.



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