The angry birds in question are flightless avians who just don’t see the point of flying since life is already pretty good on Bird Island. And like its subject, The Angry Birds Movie never takes flight, content to laze about and scoot by on the bare minimum of a plot. It’s forever positioned to prove itself worthy of its feature film status but ultimately fails to reach any new creative heights and escape its smartphone game origins.
There are things to enjoy, namely a cast that features some of today’s best comedic talent. They are the ones who give life to a lifeless story, reverse engineered from a game that to my limited understanding is really just about birds and pigs hurling themselves at each other. The movie tries to elevate this feathery beach ball match by filling in with backstory, starting with Red (Jason Sudekis), a party clown with anger management issues. His problems may stem from his youth as an orphaned bird bullied for his big eyebrows, but that’s something for him to work out during his court-mandated classes to deal with his temper. Those are led by new age guru Matilda (Maya Rudolph) and are a gathering place for an eclectic bunch that includes speedy yellow bird, Chuck (Josh Gad), explosive black bird, Bomb (Danny McBride), and an oversized grunter (Oscar winner Sean Penn, grunting).
It takes awhile to establish these characters, and the process comes off as a desperate attempt to shore up the story with engaging personalities. To their credit, Sudekis and Gad make the time pass more enjoyably and compensate for the lack of visual and artistic flair. There are many sarcastic jokes that will fly over the heads of children, but generally the actors add a welcome if caustic edge to their characters, who are angry birds after all.
This set-up eats into the main part of the story, however, and the actual conflict gets pushed to the second half of the movie. It isn’t until the green pigs, who look like trolls dregged out of a swamp, appear that things really get going. King Mudbeard (Bill Hader) introduces himself as an explorer, eager to establish friendly ties with the birds. Since they have never left the island, they accept his entreaty, fascinated by his stories and marveling at the new wonders he introduces. It’s a world reborn with slingshots and balloons. It’s also an unexpected allegory, albeit not a very exact or deep one, of colonialism. Of course this is all a rouse, and the pigs are really out to placate the birds so that they can steal their eggs. And once that happens, well, there’s only one thing for Red and his friends to do and that is to slingshot bomb themselves over to pigland.
The plot is a tortured explainer to the game, a build up to the point where angry birds start hurtling through the air. Once the battle is on, the movie goes into game mode with one character shooting pink fireballs out of her bum and another one setting off an explosion that takes out a whole tower block of pigs. The Mighty Eagle (a funny Peter Dinklage), available for 99 cents purchase, also swoops in to help save the day. For those who don’t have the app, it’s your chance to see what you’ve been missing out on, and for those who do have it, I wonder if it isn’t more enjoyable to just play the game.
Prod: John Cohen, Catherine Winder
Dir: Clay Kaytis, Fergal Reilly
Writer: Jon Vitti
Cast: Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader, Peter Dinklage, Kate McKinnon, Sean Penn, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key
Time: 97 min
Country: United States