For a re­view of “Storks,”

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Wel­come to the very strange, and strangely mov- ing, world of “Storks.” Wri­ter­di­rec­tor Ni­cholas Stoller, known for his more adult come­dies, such as “For­get­ting Sarah Mar­shall” and “Neigh­bors,” delves into the fam­i­lyfriendly an­i­mated genre in a lit­tle movie about where ba­bies come from. Or where they used to come from. In this world, the old wives tale of storks de­liv­er­ing bounc­ing bun­dles of joy is real his­tory, though the birds have been rel­e­gated to de­liv­er­ing pack­ages for Cor­ner­ af­ter one be­came too at­tached to a baby.

Stoller teams up with ex­pe­ri­enced an­i­ma­tor Doug Sweet­land for di­rect­ing du­ties, and the story bal­ances the fan­tasy world with more mun­dane re­al­i­ties. The film starts out as a work­place sit­com, as our pro­tag­o­nist, Ju­nior the stork (Andy Sam­berg), is fired up for a pro­mo­tion from boss Hunter (Kelsey Gram­mar). Un­for­tu­nately, ac­ci­dent-prone hu­man or­phan Tulip (Katie Crown) just keeps get­ting in his way. She’s the baby at the cen­ter of the stork-at­tach­ment in­ci­dent, and she’s been raised in the ware­house.

In the hu­man world, Nate (An­ton Stark­man) an only child, wishes for a baby brother to play with while his par­ents (Ty Bur­rell and Jen­nifer Anis­ton) are pre­oc­cu­pied with their home real es­tate busi­ness. He dis­cov­ers an old pam­phlet for stork baby de­liv­ery, sends off a let­ter, and through Tulip’s mis­guided help­ful­ness, the baby fac­tory is fired up once more. Like the Cor­ner­ motto says, “Al­ways De­liver!” so Tulip and Ju­nior find them­selves on an ad­ven­ture to get the new baby to the fam­ily and be back in time for StorkCon and Ju­nior’s pro­mo­tion.

The story it­self is fairly stan­dard — a quar­rel­ing odd cou­ple learn about them­selves and each other through a per­ilous jour­ney — but Stoller em­bel­lishes the tone with a sense of deep weird­ness. There’s room enough for bizarre lit­tle gags and side tan­gents that are silly enough to de­light kids and par­ents alike, as well as fast and fu­ri­ous joke de­liv­ery from the comedic voice tal­ent. One of Ju­nior’s un­der­min­ing co­work­ers Pi­geon Toady (Stephen Kramer Glick­man) sports a surfer drawl and a mop of Trumpian or­ange hair; a wolf pack led by a pair voiced by Kee­gan-Michael Key and Jor­dan Peele have unique abil­i­ties to trans­form them­selves into var­i­ous land and water ve­hi­cles.

“Storks” is at times ca­cophonous and overly busy, and the an­i­ma­tion tends to­ward the goofily hu­mor­ous rather than the spec­tac­u­lar. How­ever, Stoller man­ages to pull off a third act and emo­tional res­o­lu­tion that’s gen­uinely mov­ing. There’s def­i­nitely some kind of metaphor go­ing on about the fu­tile reg­u­la­tion of a “baby fac­tory” that can’t be con­trolled by larger profit-driven cor­po­rate forces, lay­ered with deeper themes about cou­ples that want ba­bies and don’t have them yet.

The emo­tional core of the film, with Ju­nior and Tulip bond­ing through their ad­ven­tures and mak­ing new friends along the way, is that fam­ily is what you make of it. Maybe a baby makes a fam­ily, but maybe friends are fam­ily; maybe fam­ily is bound by shared DNA; maybe fam­ily is a wolf pack. What mat­ters is what you do with your fam­ily, how you spend time with them, show them that you care and share a life to­gether. That this res­o­nant a mes­sage comes in such a wildly weird and funny pack­age is just about as oddly pleas­ant as you can imag­ine.

“Storks,” a Warner Bros. Pic­tures, is rated PG for mild ac­tion and some the­matic el­e­ments. Run­ning time: 89 min­utes.

“The Mag­nif­i­cent Seven”

Seven war­riors fight for the vul­ner­a­ble, in a for­mula that bears re­vis­it­ing in “The Mag­nif­i­cent Seven.” Akira Kuro­sawa’s 1954 mas­ter­piece, “Seven Sa­mu­rai,” be­gat the clas­sic 1960 Western “The Mag­nif­i­cent Seven,” then a late ’90s TV series and now, a big bud­get ac­tion ad­ven­ture Western di­rected by An­toine Fuqua. It’s an ap­peal­ing con­cept — bad guys who can be good, lon­ers who can work to­gether and find camaraderie in a team when it comes to pro­tect­ing in­no­cents.

With the block­buster cast that Fuqua has as­sem­bled, in­clud­ing Den­zel Wash­ing­ton, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vin­cent D’Onofrio and Peter Sars­gaard, as well as stun­ning cin­e­matog­ra­phy by Mauro Fiore, this Western epic re­make should be an easy home run. It’s all there — ex­cept for the writ­ing, and that fail­ure is the Achilles’ heel that never lets this ver­sion of “The Mag­nif­i­cent Seven” achieve liftoff.

Writ­ten by “True De­tec­tive” scribe Nic Piz­zo­latto along­side “Ex­pend­ables” and “The Equal­izer” writer Richard Wenk, “The Mag­nif­i­cent Seven” is long on vi­o­lence and short on story, char­ac­ter de­vel­op­ment, mo­ti­va­tion, and all the things that make any kind of vi­o­lence sat­is­fy­ing to watch. There­fore, de­spite all the star power, charisma, and dusty heroics on screen, it’s im­pos­si­ble to care about any of it.

The big­gest prob­lem is a fail­ure to ad­e­quately es­tab­lish the vil­lain, Bartholomew Bogue. Sars­gaard does his snivel­ing best with the two scenes he is given to por­tray Bogue, a tyran­ni­cal cap­i­tal­ist who equates democ­racy with God with the free mar­ket, and who has seized the town of Rose Creek for the pur­poses of gold min­ing. In a pre-cred­its opener, we see just what a bad­die he is, tor­ment­ing chil­dren, shoot­ing up a church, and mow­ing down in­no­cent cit­i­zens, but it’s just not enough to jus­tify the end­less vi­o­lence that the seven re­turn, es­pe­cially since the towns­peo­ple are en­dan­gered and killed in the melee them­selves.

To top it off, there’s just not enough back­story and char­ac­ter mo­ti­va­tion to be­lieve that these seven would put them­selves on the line for this tiny town. Spunky Emma (Ha­ley Ben­nett) re­tains the ser­vices of war­rant of­fi­cer Sam Chisholm (Wash­ing­ton), who has a deep se­cret mem­ory of Bogue that sparks his in­ter­est in the job. The other six he strong arms into join­ing him, in­clud­ing Fara­day (Pratt) and Vasquez (Manuel Gar­cia-Rulfo). He calls on old pal Good­night Ro­bicheaux (Hawke) and his as­so­ci­ate, Chi­nese fighter Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), and some­how con­vinces Co­manche war­rior Red Har­vest (Martin Sens­meier) and cow­boy Santa Claus Jack Horne (D’Onofrio) to join up too. Why any of them par­tic­i­pate in the massacre is frankly, a mys­tery.

The Western genre has al­ways worked as a metaphor — a fable that al­lows us to work out our con­tem­po­rary quan­daries through the screen of a pe­riod piece. In this “Mag­nif­i­cent Seven,” there’s a cel­e­bra­tion of guns that feels both of that era of law­less shootouts, and un­for­tu­nately, of this era too.

These gun­men pro­tect cit­i­zens en­ti­tled to free­dom from un­fet­tered cap­i­tal­ism. It’s a po­lit­i­cally com­pli­cated mes­sage, at once con­ser­va­tive and lib­eral, speak­ing to both sides. While there might be an in­trigu­ing moral wrapped in this vi­o­lent pack­age, with­out the hu­man el­e­ment urg­ing the story for­ward, the “Mag­nif­i­cent Seven” turns out to be rather in­signif­i­cant af­ter all.

“The Mag­nif­i­cent Seven,” a Sony Pic­tures re­lease, is rated PG-13 for ex­tended and in­tense se­quences of Western vi­o­lence, and for his­tor­i­cal smok­ing, some lan­guage and sug­ges­tive ma­te­rial. Run­ning time: 132 min­utes.


Den­zel Washington, left, and Chris Pratt star in “The Mag­nif­i­cent Seven.”

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