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Storks: Sweet and Cutesy, But a Little Too Much So
The latest animated efforts from the Warner Animation Group – the studio behind last year's The Lego Movie - is somewhat of a mixed bag. Cute but a little confused on the story it wants to tell, Storks - written and directed by Forgetting Sarah Marshall's Nicholas Stoller – has good intentions and is colourful and zany enough to score big with kids, but holds little for adult audiences.
The story is - yes you've guessed it – centred on storks who live in a far-away land known as Stork Land. Once seen as the ones responsible for the creation and distribution of babies around the globe, they are now working as a Corner Store – an Amazon-like business used to deliver goods and packages– and are overseen by Hunter (Grammer).
One of Corner Store's best employees is Junior (Samberg), whose performance at the factory has already attracted the attention of his superiors and is now being considered for a promotion. However, the only thing left to do to secure his new position is to fire the helplessly useless human, Tulip (Crown) which of course he can't bring himself to do and decides to send her to the now nonoperational letter room instead. Meanwhile, young boy named Nate (Starkman) is not happy with his life at home and, after coming across a Stork brochure, decides to write a letter to request a baby brother. The one to receive the letter is Tulip who, despite Junior's protests, accidentally creates a baby. Now, it's up to them to find a way to deliver the newborn to his new home before anyone finds out what they did.
The story is best described as an odd-buddy road trip comedy which follows Tulip and Junior as they try to deliver their latest human-baby creation - a.k.a Diamond Destiny –to her new home before ever allowing the opportunity for the boss-man to find out. Their journey – which finds them encountering various obstacles and dangers along the way including a pack of wolves – is executed with plenty of vibrancy and colour with their mismatched pairing and entertaining dynamics offering plenty of laughs throughout.
What manages to dampen the entire experience, however, is the script's lack of focus which doesn't always keep things tight and effective. Logic doesn't play a big role in Storks which only works as the sum of its parts. If you isolate any of said parts individually, though, the film falls down. Some of the gags are either borrowed or repetitive and whilst the voice-work is solid – both Samberg and Crown managed to sell their arcs pretty well – the story never reaches the heights of any of the animated classics. It's entertaining enough, but almost certainly doesn't stand-up to second viewing.
What can you say about the seemingly unstoppable force that is Nicolas Cage that hasn’t been said before? A magnet for the most troubled, muddled and just generally exasperating films to hit cinemas in the last five years, his latest work in USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage does nothing to change his fortunes.
Despite being based on one a true story that has all the makings of a war epic, the Mario Van Peebles-directed USS Indianapolis bleeds all and any gravitas and emotion out of its incredibly dramatic source material.
The story goes as thus: the eponymous US Navy cruiser delivered the first parts of the atomic bomb that would go on to devastate Hiroshima, before being torpedoed by the Japanese navy, leaving some 300 of the 1000-plus crewmen dead and the rest stranded in shark-infested waters. Said sharks, along with dehydration and salt water poisoning, leave just over 300 survivors to be rescued.
At the centre of the ensuing hubbub is Cage’s Captain McVay, who many, very unreasonably, blame for the death of the 700 or so victims – so you see, it’s a very complex story, but one that very quickly descend into and exercise on how not to make a war film.
The occasional laughable CGI aside, Cage is oddly sedate, bordering on placid, in his role – yes, the central character is possibly the flattest element of the film, while seasoned actors, Tom Sizemore and Thomas Jane, are given little to chew on in their respective roles.
While starting exactly as one would expect a war film to, the wreckage part of the film turns into cheap disaster movie, before turning into a courtroom drama in the final act. It’s a muddle of a film that fails to really drum to the beat of McVay’s potentially brilliant arc as a firm commander that eventually buckles under the unjust pressure he receives back at home.
Bad CGI, a mammoth two hour-plus running time and Nic Cage can be forgiven, but what’s at the heart of this film’s mess is the script. Jumping from event to event, plotline to plotline, at a whim, with Cage’s soft murmured speech used to pave over the transitions, USS Indianapolis’s pacing is that of a film hurrying to stuff as many ideas and threads as possible – expect that’s not the case. Van Peebles tries so hard to build the layers of an epic, when, actually, all he needed to do was tell this simple but stirring story as it is.
Armed with a zappy attitude, vibrant colours and a heavily-marketed soundtrack, the latest animated effort from DreamWorks Animation attempts to profit from the once popular toy brand in Trolls: a fun and a breezy animated musical which is a little light on story on substance.
Set deep in the heart of a magical land unknown to man, the Trolls are one of the tiniest and happiest creatures in the world who enjoy spending their days singing, dancing and generally spreading joy throughout their tiny little community. Their polar opposites are the Bergens; large, miserable and seemingly nasty monsters incapable of feeling joy on their own, needing to eat Trolls in order to consume their happiness. See, eating Trolls has become a Bergen holiday and on one of those holidays, the Trolls somehow manage to escape and, for twenty years, have been living a blissful and a carefree existence.
Fast-forward to present day, Princess Poppy (Kendrick) is preparing to celebrate the anniversary of that great escape, something which doesn’t sit all too well with the grumpy troll named Branch (Timberlake) who believes that the party will bring them unnecessary attention. His predictions soon come true when a Bergen Chef (Baranski) emerges from the shadows and grabs a couple of trolls and heads to Bergen command centre in order to redeem her bruised reputation, leaving it up to Poppy and Branch to go after her and save their friends.
Much like the Lego Movie before it, Trolls may come across to many as nothing but a calculated brand-driven cash grab which is looking to capitalise its profits from the popularity of a toy line which hasn’t been relevant since mid 90’s. Sure, money is always major motivators in productions like these, but there’s a fair amount of effort that is deserving of recognition.
Visually speaking, Trolls is a stunner. Offering an immersive and an almost psychedelic viewing experience, its visual palette is filled with vibrant colours and shimmering glitters, while the design of the trolls themselves –rainbow-coloured hair that shoots straight up, wrinkly foreheads and googly eyes – are showcased wonderfully. The voiceover work by the A-list cast – including Gwen Stefani, Zoey Deschanel and Russell Brand – is also solid with Timberlake and Kendrick using their easy chemistry and natural charm to bring the story’s main characters to life.
Unfortunately, where things go wrong is the story itself which comes across as uncreative, predictable and most disappointing of all, forgettable. Adults will left out in the cold by its excessively sugary feel, because ultimately, there’s not much here to engage with beyond the catchy pop-tunes, glittery farts and the candy-coloured façade.