CHICAGO (Christian Examiner) – Nate is an energetic, creative little boy who wants a sibling – specifically, a brother – so he can have a playmate. His parents, though, are workaholic realtors who can't fathom a household with two children.
But Nate has a grand idea. He will send a handwritten letter to the storks, who live far, far away on Stork Mountain, and they will bring him a brother. There's one big problem: The storks are no longer in the baby business. (Yes, they once were.) They are now an Amazon.com-type company known as Cornerstore.com, and they deliver packages – such as TV sets.
Fear not, though, because the letter ends up in the hands of a clueless company worker, who accidentally turns on the non-operational baby-making machine, popping out a sweet little bundle of joy. So far, so good, but the CEO of Cornerstone, Hunter (Kelsey Grammer) vows to stop the delivery, and a pack of wolves wants the baby, too.
It's all part of the plot in Storks (PG), which opens in theaters this weekend and was created by the same studio (Warner Bros. Animation) that gave us The Lego Movie, which was No. 1 for three weeks in 2014 and ended with an incredible $257 million domestic gross. I really liked The Lego Movie, but I enjoyed Storks even more. Storks is funnier, has a better storyline, and also has more life lessons for children and parents.
Storks is pro-family in the original sense, and after watching it you understand why an adoption organization (adoption-share.com) is one of the film's partners.
But is Storks OK for all children, including small kids? Let's take a look.
Warning: spoilers ahead
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Storks celebrates the gift of life and babies, from beginning to end. Nate (Anton Starkman) wants a baby brother so much that eventually, his parents get on board. Meanwhile, the film's supposed villains – including a huge pack of wolves -- go from wanting to eat the baby to wanting to protect it and keep it. They, too, have that "awwww" moment each time it giggles. By movie's end, the baby-making machine is working full-time again – and everyone is celebrating.
Nate's mom and dad (Jennifer Aniston, Ty Burrell) begin the film as workaholics (they work at home and wear headsets, and groan each time they have to play with Nate), but soon they see their errors and join him on a massive project to build a stork-baby-delivery chute.
In a society that is obsessed by work and often views babies as inconveniences, it's nice to see a major movie preach the right message.
Storks is incredibly funny – so much so that I was laughing even more than my son was.
Storks has no major language issues. The worst we hear is a few instances of "oh my gosh" and a "screw-up," "stupid" and "suck it."
The so-called scary scenes would bother only very sensitive children. The wolves appear ready to eat the newly created baby, but within seconds are laughing at it and announcing they're going to raise it. Another supposed villain, Jasper, looks scary a couple of times, but ends up being friendly.
The creators of Storks did tip their hat to the LGBT community, although the scene is even more brief than the alleged lesbian scene in Finding Dory. The Storks scene takes place in the film's final minutes, as we watch a rapid sequence involving babies in the arms of different parents. Most of the couples include a man and a woman, but we also see two women, and moments later two men. It's so quick that it's easy to miss (it might last a fifth of a second – if that). The scene was not a deal-breaker to me, although it might bother some conservative families.
Lessons for Families
Storks is a film that provides "thought food" for everyone. Parents can ask: Do we have the right balance between work and play in our home? What are we teaching our kids about priorities and family-life? Are we missing out on moments we will never recover – and will we later have regrets?
For children, there are the normal lessons about teamwork but there's also a big one for children who have siblings: Do they really appreciate their brother or sister – and do they realize that not every child has one?
Perhaps families also should discuss: Where do babies come from? The thought that they come from storks when mommy's tummy is growing sounds crazy, but the real answer we need to feed our children is this: They come from God.
Finally, the movie touches on the issue of adoption in a way that will impact families differently. The "clueless worker" referenced above is a teen girl named Tulip (Katie Crown), who is the only human worker at Cornerstone. She never was delivered to her parents as a baby due to a mishap, and so she was raised by storks. She subsequently built a plane to find her "real parents," and by movie's end, she does reunite with them. (At one point earlier in the film she is called "Orphan Tulip." Also, she makes up for her mishaps by becoming the hero.) I am an adoptive father and was not troubled by the plot, but it is certainly one that is worth knowing about before you go.
The Verdict: OK for Small Kids?
Many moviegoers consider Finding Dory the animated movie of the year, but I'd put Storks in that discussion, too. I would take my 4-year-old children to watch Storks. The scary scenes are not intense, and they quickly turn positive.
Entertainment rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Storks is rated PG for mild action and some thematic elements.
Language: None. Oh my gosh (4), screw-up (1), suck it (1) shut up (1) heck (1).
Violence: Minimal. The wolves never hit or bite anyone, although they do chase Tulip and her stork friend, who are carrying the baby (the wolves want to take care of it).The baby enjoys watching Tulip and her stork friend, Junior, hit one another.