For an animated movie that’s ostensibly about where babies come from (they’re delivered by air, of course), Storks is targeted at the youngest of viewers: chirpers who won’t mind gobbling down a little pre-digested Inside Out or The Lion King—this vaguely recalls both films—on their way to a bland 89 minutes. It’s not lazy; if anything, Storks tries too hard to create energy where none exists in its tale of beaked Junior (voiced by Andy Samberg), a handsome bird set to inherit the empire of his father (Kelsey Grammer), a stern blowhard who’s transitioned storks from the infant business to shipping cell phones and consumer products. But when a human baby mysteriously appears in the factory, it’s got to be dispatched, right? Apart from one muted action sequence in which the participants try not to wake a sleeping bundle of joy (“Put that baby down,” one of them demands, and the order is obeyed, with a little tucking in), there’s scarce humor here for adults to relish. And Samberg’s characteristic snark has been sanded down to a nub. It may be that we’ve come to expect our animated movies, often products of years of development, to function on too many levels: witty diversions for parents as well as head-bonking adventures for kids. Storks isn’t terrible; there’s some airy poetry to the images—especially an elongated stork headquarters high in the sky—while the no-nonsense voices of Jennifer Aniston and Ty Burrell (as a human married couple) go a long way to making it bearable.
It’s perhaps the best-known Peanuts cartoon ever, with a poignant message. To get rid of his holiday depression, Charlie Brown tries to put on a school Christmas pageant, with his comic gang in the cast and crew. Yet when Charlie tries to direct the rehearsals, he keeps getting ignored or finds his friends being uncooperative. Even the tiny sapling he buys as a potential pageant tree is mocked. In exasperation, Charlie loudly asks if anyone knows what Christmas is really all about—and then Linus delivers the most memorable answer. (And the droopy little tree gets much TLC.)
Struggling to get in the festive spirit? This night of Christmas nostalgia is guaranteed to leave you walking in the air (see what we did there?).
For a fast-track to all those feelings of goodwill, head down to Picturehouse Central on Tuesday December 13. They are playing host to the Orchestra of St Pauls, who will be performing the soundtrack to Christmas classic 'The Snowman'.
Ticketholders can warm their cockles with a mince pie and a mulled wine while listening to the live string orchestra, before heading up to the cinema screens to watch the festive tearjerker itself.
'The Snowman' will also be followed by a short documentary detailing the making of the iconic animation before a screening of the equally heart-warming sequel 'The Snowman and The Snowdog'.
The north pole sure has changed since the days of the first Saint Nick. Twas a time, as 136-year-old Grandsanta (the great Nighy) might tell you, when the ho-ho-hoer of the moment made do with a reindeer-powered sleigh and a drunken elf at his side for all present-delivering duties. Now everything's invisible-spaceship-in-the-sky automated, Father Christmas No. 20 (Broadbent) is a mere figurehead, and Claus-on-deck Steve (Laurie) runs an army of elves like a Wall Street one-percenter. But there's still room for error: A British girl's gift gets lost in the shuffle, and while Steve is perfectly content to send it five-day mail, the black sheep of the Claus family---clumsy, well-meaning Arthur (McAvoy)---just can't stand the thought of one child left behind.From this clever premise, director-cowriter Sarah Smith and the talented team of artisans at Britain's Aardman Animations have fashioned an entirely delightful 3-D CG fantasy. Everything from the film's near--Looney Tunes velocity to the character design (an aged Rudolph with plastic protective collar and detachable red nose) is sheer perfection, and even those moments where a lesser movie would tip over into sugary spirit-of-the-season sentimentality---like the climactic coming together of the Clauses---feel entirely earned. It would be a Christmas miracle save for one lump of coal: an ear-shattering Justin Bieber song over the end credits. Gotta sell something to the kids at Yuletide.Follow Keith Uhlich on Twitter: @keithu
A treat from Hollywood's most unlikely Midas: an original fairy tale, screenplay by Caroline Thompson from a story and characters created by Tim Burton, adapted by Michael McDowell and told in stop-motion animation with a lively score by Danny Elfman. Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King, is bored with his annual Halloween triumph. A chance visit to nearby Christmastown gives him an idea: he and his spooky friends will stand in for Santa this Christmas! This beautifully realised confection will delight grown-ups of all ages.
Acted to the parsimonious hilt by the human Scrooge (Caine), and framed by author-narrator Charles Dickens (the Great Gonzo) addressing his rodent audience (Rizzo the Rat), the story survives. Well, it would: it's the same story of redemption that powers Stallone movies. All the pen-pushing glovesters in Scrooge's office run on fear of dismissal, a topical note, with Bob Cratchit (Kermit the Frog) negotiating but nervous. Not so his wife Miss Piggy, ready to have a go at Scrooge, but mindful of the needs of their family, a brood as mixed as you would expect from pigs and frogs, which explains the medical condition of Tiny Tim, a froglet with a cough on crutches. The three ghosts of Christmas are wonderful. Elsewhere, Fozzie Bear bears a resemblance to Francis L Sullivan in the David Lean Dickens adaptations, and there's a shop called Micklewhite. As an actor, Kermit can corrugate his forehead vertically. Good fun.