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Quirky 'Storks' scores with clever writing and an original story
Nate Gardner (voice of Anton Starkman) in "Storks." - photo by Josh Terry
STORKS 3 stars Voices of Andy Samberg, Katie Crown, Kelsey Grammer, Jennifer Aniston, Ty Burrell; PG (mild action and some thematic elements); in general release

"Storks" is a step down from 2016's best animated options, like "Zootopia" and "Kubo and the Two Strings," but it's a lot better than many of the routine efforts studios have released in attempts to draw parents into theaters throughout the year. It has a fun and original idea, strong, familiar voice-over performances and some clever writing and execution.

Storks takes place in a world where, for storks, baby delivering is a thing of the past. At its heart, it is a buddy comedy about a stork, an 18-year-old girl and a newborn baby.

The stork is Junior (voiced by Andy Samberg) a dutiful worker at, the international package-delivering corporation that has employed all the storks since they stopped delivering babies.

Junior's boss Hunter (Kelsey Grammer) looks more like an eagle with his commanding voice and broad-shouldered suit jacket. Hes moving up the corporate ladder, and offers Junior his position on one condition: He must fire a bungling co-worker named Tulip (Katie Crown).

Tulip is the red-headed reason the storks don't deliver babies anymore. Thanks to a gaffe by a stork named Jasper (Danny Trejo), Tulip was marooned with the storks as a baby and, since she just turned 18, Hunter is anxious to get the good-hearted but clumsy human out of his feathers once and for all.

The newborn baby is generated by the stork's long-defunct baby-creating machine after a boy named Nate Gardner (Anton Starkman) gets tired of nagging his real estate-obsessed parents (Jennifer Aniston and Ty Burrell) for a little brother and decides to send the storks a request letter himself.

One thing leads to another, and Junior and Tulip set out to deliver the baby to the unsuspecting Gardner family while trying to evade a brown-nosing corporate pigeon (Stephen Kramer Glickman) and a group of bloodthirsty wolves led by Alpha (Keegan-Michael Key) and Beta (Jordan Peele). It's a fun and zany ride that careens its way through some positive themes about family.

Most of the writing is very clever, and boosts the sophistication of "Storks" above many of its animated competitors, though some parents may still cringe at the characters' frequent tendency to mug for the camera in exaggerated, jerky motions (fans familiar with Sambergs work will recognize his style throughout the film). The kids will probably love it, though.

One of the better running gags in the film involves the baby's almost Medusa-like power over anyone brave enough to look her in the eyes. And a late-movie showdown with a posse of determined penguins is a dry comic highlight.

Storks comes from Warner Brothers Animation, the same studio that made The Lego Movie. So for any of you who are anxious for next years Lego Batman Movie, Storks opens with an animated Lego short called The Master about a Kung Fu master and a feisty chicken. Its a quick short that doesnt add much to Storks 89-minute run time.

For parents looking for a new animated option for their young kids, Storks is right on the fence in terms of value for the money. Make this one a matinee, skip the 3-D and you should be just about right.

Storks is rated PG for mild action and some thematic elements; running time: 89 minutes.
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