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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Storks is an animated love letter to the realization that the time parents have to share with their children is brief, sweet, and to be cherished. There's plenty of peril: A large pack of wolves pursues key characters and threatens to eat them, a giant machine wreaks destruction, babies drop from great heights, jet packs go haywire, a homemade flying machine crashes at the precipice of a glacier, etc. But the suspenseful scenes are almost always resolved safely. The question of where babies come from is answered in a way that might confuse younger children (be prepared for questions afterward -- or during!). One main character is an orphan who's longed to find her family her whole life; at one point, her dear friend is upset when she talks about finding her "real family." There's a little bit of language ("butt," "heck"), some bodily function humor, and a couple of wink-wink moments between adult characters. Corporate greed and insensitivity are raised (and portrayed negatively), but overall, this is a clever, action-packed comedy with messages about teamwork, perseverance, and compassion.
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What's the story?
According to STORKS, the big birds used to deliver babies back in the old days at the written request of would-be parents. Not only did they offer door-to-door service, but they actually made the babies in their elaborate factory. Although there were "other" ways of getting babies, business was great. But there were hitches: The babies were unpredictable, and some storks became too attached to their "packages." As a result, the birds transitioned their business model into a more profitable, less emotionally draining one: The storks now deliver packages for the Amazon-like Corner Store. The enterprise is run by head stork Hunter (voiced by Kelsey Grammer), a bombastic bottom liner. But he's ready to turn over the works to Junior (Andy Samberg), a veteran flyer old enough to remember the baby days. One reminder of the hazards of those days is Tulip (Katie Crown), now turning 18, whose stork became too fond of her and lost her address, leaving the birds to raise her. About to be shipped (against her will) into the human world, Tulip mistakenly responds to a lonely boy's request for a little brother and triggers the old workings to spit out a new baby. As Tulip and Junior struggle to secretly deliver the baby, the boy trains his workaholic parents (Jennifer Aniston and Ty Burrell) to spend more time with him.
Is it any good?
This sweet family comedy was written and conceived by smart people who clearly know something about the project of raising children, in all its combined sweetness and bitterness. Storks is a hurricane of nonstop cartoon action, gags, and goofiness mixed with emotional sophistication that will appeal to both the young target audience and the adult sherpas who guide them safely to the theaters. That sense of protectiveness of our young is exactly the bell this movie sets out to ring, and it does so with intelligence, wit, and the right dose of silliness. Glaringly absent is any pretentiousness or condescension, and that's good news for both kids and parents. Samberg, Grammer, and Crown's voice talents are perfectly encouraged by co-directors Nicholas Stoller and Doug Sweetland. The latter was an animator on Toy Story, another great movie that authentically depicts a child's world; the animation in Storks is similarly impressive. (Watch a wolf pack collectively become a submarine on command.) And perhaps Stoller, who also co-wrote The Muppets and directed Neighbors, is responsible for the little observations that we scarcely notice in life but that resonate so strongly on the screen. (Watching enemies fight quietly so as not to wake a sleeping baby is one of the movie's funniest scenes.)
A few hesitations: Storks deliver babies? This is a far more complex proposition for parents to explain away than cars that talk and toys that live secret lives while their owners are out of sight. And it's disturbing that, at the climactic moment, the villain is clearly threatening the lives of thousands of cooing babies in favor of corporate greed. With any luck, that dark realization will go right over the head of young viewers. Lastly, it's great that Nate's workaholic parents learn how much fun it can be to work a little less (a luxury for most working parents) and spend more time with their son. But the true lesson of parenthood is the realization that it's important to spend time with your children even during all those times when it's not that much fun. Bottom line? Storks blends strong messages with a fun story -- just be ready to talk about where babies come from.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Storks' scary scenes. Which parts did you find frightening? Why? How much scary stuff can young kids handle?
Which is more upsetting to you -- scenes with characters in danger, or scenes in which they're in conflict with each other (angry, yelling, etc.)? Why do you think that is?
What does it mean to be part of a family? Does your family have to be people you're related to? Who do you consider part of your family?
What do Nate's parents learn about their priorities in terms of work and family? What does Junior learn about what matters at work? How are those lessons related to each other?
- In theaters: September 23, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: December 20, 2016
- Cast: Andy Samberg, Kelsey Grammer, Katie Crown
- Directors: Nicholas Stoller, Doug Sweetland
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Friendship
- Character Strengths: Compassion, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: mild action and some thematic elements
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Seal
- Last updated: September 26, 2019
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