What is a kids’ movie, these days? Animated, often. Full of PG-appropriate potty humor, sometimes. Sharing a message about the goodness of family, or the warmth of belonging, or the power of individualism, usually. Wacky, inventive, a Delightful Romp … almost always.
There is one thing, though, that will be uniformly true of a true kids’ movie: It will involve, implicitly, a paradox. It will glorify the experience of being young in a world made by, and for, grown-ups—that’s what will, ultimately, make it a kids’ movie—and yet it, too, will be made for grown-ups. The jokes will be layered, so that adults can appreciate them. The storylines will be, too. The themes will address nostalgia for childhood as much as they address childhood itself. And of course they will: Adults are the ones who buy the tickets. They’re the ones who buy the DVDs. They’re the ones who decide what a kids’ movie should be, in the end, because movies may be about creativity, but they are also about capitalism.
With Storks, written and co-directed by Nicholas Stoller, the creator behind the decidedly non-kids’ movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall, that paradox might have hit its peak. This is a movie, after all, that is premised entirely on a joke that only an adult will find funny: the parent’s age-old insistence that “where do babies come from?” can be answered, definitively, by a reference to long-beaked birds. Storks is also a movie, though, that fulfills its thematic obligations—the goodness of family, or the warmth of belonging, the power of individualism—by way of one overriding theme: It is about all the crazy things people, adult people, will do in the name of their kids. It is a kids’ movie that is really, in the end, about parenthood.