Storks are known for delivering bundles that are irresistible, exhaustingly active at times, and frequently pretty darn messy. How completely appropriate, then, that Warner Bros.’ 3-D animated feature “Storks” delivers the same. Writer-director Nicholas Stoller, the guy behind the “Neighbors” comedies — but also, probably more relevantly, co-scripter of “The Muppets” (2011) — fuels the movie with his familiar freewheeling style. The result is a story that’s awfully scattered thematically, but one with such inventive wit and screwball-quick pacing that issues like spongy motivation hardly seem to matter.
Lest anyone dismiss the whole baby-making conceit as quaint, a chop-chop opener informs us that the gangly birds changed their business model years ago. Goodbye newborn spit-up, hello to a slick new routine delivering packages for the storks’ very own online retail giant. In your face, Amazon drones!
The most coolly efficient of the flock is Junior (Andy Samberg), whose smarts and dedication have him in line for a huge promotion from the bombastic company boss (Kelsey Grammer, doing a uvula-flapping baritone). But first Junior must prove his managerial mettle by firing the operation’s lone human. Meet Tulip (Katie Crown), a perky, red-maned teen who’s been awkwardly kicking around ever since the storks bungled her own delivery as an infant. Characteristically random detail: Danny Trejo was involved.
Conflicted Junior stashes Tulip in the warehouse’s forgotten baby-ordering wing, knowing she won’t get into any of her usual bumbling there. But we know different: The packed story has also been tracking precocious Nate (Anton Starkman), who hits up Stork HQ for a sibling to play the ninja games that his careerist parents (Jennifer Aniston, Ty Burrell) never do. Before you can say “totes adorbs,” reactivated gadgetry has popped out a pink-haired cutie that Junior and Tulip have to deliver to Nate’s family before the boss finds out.
It’s not just your standard ’toon quest, though. Witness hilariously nonsensical touches like our heroes’ encounter with a wolfpack that collectively morphs into speedboats and such to give chase. And the surprisingly resonant snapshots of parenting, both from stand-ins Junior and Tulip as well as Aniston and Burrell’s rueful go-getters. And all the refreshingly unfamiliar talent: Crown, Starkman, and comedian Stephen Kramer Glickman as a toupeed homing pigeon with the inflection of — we think? — a postmod Valley dude. We’re about as clear on that as we are on what the characters in “Storks” are after from one act to the next. But with that dizzying pace, we’re too busy laughing to mind.
Directed by Nicholas Stoller and Doug Sweetland. Written by Stoller. Starring Andy Samberg, Katie Crown, Kelsey Grammer, Jennifer Aniston, Ty Burrell. At Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs. 89 minutes. PG (mild action, some thematic elements).Tom Russo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.