Where do babies come from? You and I know the REAL answer, but the mythology of the stork delivery theory is the basis of this new animated feature from Warner Animation Group (WAG). It takes a very thin concept and really runs with it. There is an inherent joy in the structure of the Storks’ delivery business.

In the movie, it is common knowledge that storks once delivered babies but currently they have abandoned delivering children and instead bring packages for a big online company. Andy Samberg provides the voice of Junior, a hotshot delivery stork who is on the fast track to being Boss. His first act is to fire Orphan Tulip. Tulip is the last baby that was supposed to be delivered, but the stork who was going to take her went nuts, wanted her for his own and was banished. Tulip lost her chance to be with her real family so the storks kept her and it seems in her eighteen years there, never really fit in. When Tulip screws up again, she inadvertently creates the first baby from the ‘baby machine’ in years. Junior and Tulip must deliver the new baby before anyone finds out, but as can be expected, their quest is thwarted at every turn due in part to Tulip’s clumsiness and the conspiracy of the current Boss stork, Hunter to keep the storks out of the baby game forever.

This is a high energy, squash and stretch style animated tale that blends slapstick humor with some median level wit. It carefully dances around a lot of sensitive issues due to the fact that they’re dealing with the subject of babies and where they come from. It feels like they deftly compact the full backstory in the first act and it gets off and running from the start. Even as it cuts from Junior and Tulip to a young boy who was responsible for the problematic request for a sibling and his career focused parents (Jennifer Aniston and Ty Burell) it doesn’t lose its energy or pace. Not all the gags register, but on the whole it’s a fun ride with a real heart at its core.

Audience: It was a good audience. There really were no troublemaker this time around. A refreshing change, I must say.

Batman : The Killing Joke

Anyone familiar with the original graphic novel The Killing Joke must be thrilled that it is being given the animated treatment and I’m glad to say that they have every reason to be. I read the book written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Brian Bolland and like everyone else who has read it, loved it. It is a stark, gritty and disturbing glimpse at Batman’s most famous arch enemy. It painted a tragic portrait of a broken man pushed to the brink and falling into a dark pit of insanity, forever transforming not only his life, but the lives of many others in the future.

While the art of the movie doesn’t compare to Brian Bolland’s artwork, it is nonetheless effective. The story is deepened for context and it makes the entire project all the richer for it. I don’t want to give anything away, but let’s just say it offers us an aspect of the original story we were not aware of before. I’ve always been a big fan of the DC animated movies, as they are usually superior to their live action offerings, and this one hits all the marks. The best part is the return of voice talents Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill in the roles of Batman and The Joker, respectively. With their work on the original Batman TAS, they have pretty much marked the characters as theirs and they fail to disappoint once more. Mr. Conroy’s voice is getting darker and smokier (a word?) as the years go by and Mark Hamill really knows how to bring The Joker to life. Tara Strong joins the cast as the voice of Barbara Gordon/Batgirl and she has some pretty choice moments, proving that she should get her own feature soon. We’ve only scratched the surface of Ms. Gordon.

The animation had its rough spots, but on average is was one of DC’s better efforts and did the source material justice. The script followed the story near perfectly but still was able to afford a few surprises here and there. When I first read the book, I honestly could see it in an animated format. I envisioned it, but in those days the best animation I had seen up to that point was ‘The Real Ghostbusters’ so what I saw in my head was vastly different than  what I saw tonight, but I think that’s for the best. This was a special engagement, but the movie will be released on video I think this week or next, and I strongly urge you to get a copy. Any animated Batman movie deserves a place in your video collection, but this one in particular. It’s a seminal work, and while you’re at it, go and try and get a copy of the graphic novel as well. As good as the movie was (and it was) the book is a whole other experience and Alan Moore is one of the best writers the industry has ever had the privilege to witness and paired with the exceptional images from Brian Bolland, it becomes a  masterwork of literature of any kind.

Audience: I’m pleased to say that this audience came to this show with great respect for the work and there was no chatter or phone ringing. A rarity in this day and age, but then I was stuck two rows from the screen so maybe I just didn’t hear them.