FILM OF THE WEEK: Storks (U) ***
Birds of a computer-animated feather flock together in Nicholas Stoller and Doug Sweetland's lightweight family adventure, that suggests those embarrassing school lessons about human reproduction are a messy fallacy.
The gift of parenthood comes from cloudless blue skies courtesy of flocks of storks, who deliver baby boys and girls, swathed in white blankets, to tearful parents.
Pregnancy no longer needs to derail workaholic mothers, births can be conveniently scheduled rather like grocery shopping and the funding of maternity wards can be diverted to other sectors of an overstretched health service.
Storks uses this beatific vision of family planning as a colourful backdrop to parallel journeys of self-discovery for a stork and a teenager, who overcome their differences to discover a shared sense of belonging.
It’s a saccharine ode to the joy of friendship and Stoller’s script drizzles on the sentiment in the closing frames.
He also engineers some cute comic interludes and peppers frames with throwaway visual gags like one character using the search engine Gaggle to find a picture of a Canadian goose.
For centuries, storks have delivered babies, but financial pressures force the noble birds to diversify their business model.
They decommission the baby-making machine to transform their hilltop home – Cornerstone – into a warehouse for online shopping consignments.
Hunter (voiced by Kelsey Grammer), current CEO of this global empire, prepares to hand over the reins to his nervous protege, Junior (Andy Samberg).
The only fly in the ointment is 18-year-old Tulip (Katie Crown), the last baby out of the machine, who couldn’t be flown to her parents because of an accident with her tracking beacon.
She has grown up in the company of her feathered foster family and now wreaks havoc at Cornerstone with her contraptions.
‘The only thing you need to do to be named boss on Monday is liberate the orphan Tulip,’ booms Hunter.
Junior’s efforts to eject Tulip coincide with the arrival of a letter from 10-year-old Nate Gardner (Anton Starkman), who pleads for a baby brother to remind his workaholic parents (Ty Burrell, Jennifer Aniston) of their priorities.
An adorable baby christened Diamond Destiny emerges from the machine and Junior and Tulip embark on a madcap quest to deliver the gurgling infant.
Junior’s jealous rival for the CEO position, a pigeon called Toady (Stephen Kramer Glickman), gives chase, determined to thwart them.
Storks is gently amusing rather than laugh-out-loud hilarious, including several surreal flourishes involving a pack of gymnastic wolves led by Alpha (Keegan-Michael Key) and Beta (Jordan Peele).
Solid vocal performances keep the film airborne despite a paucity of sparkling one-liners for the comically gifted cast.
The scattershot plot furiously flaps its wings, wheeling from one high energy set piece to the next to distract from the number of gags that land with a soft thud.