The world of Angry Birds has never demanded much intellectual stimulation. Rovio’s smartphone game is merely a brainless time-waster, where you shoot cartoon birds out of a slingshot in hopes of defeating egg-hungry piggies. Fling your flightless heroes, and destroy everything in your path. There’s no explanation needed. So when news of The Angry Birds Movie came to be, concerns of plot thickness immediately were raised. Could writer Jon Vitti craft a story weighty enough to sling wholesome family entertainment for an hour-and-a-half? Well, it’s a yes and no answer – with a much more pronounced “No.”
On a remote tropical island, there lives a community of flightless birds who are as happy as can be – well, everyone expect for Red (Jason Sudeikis). While all the other birds joyously go about their days, Red struggles with a temper problem that turned him into a social outcast. As per a judge’s ruling, Red is forced to attend anger management classes, where he meets Chuck (Josh Gad) and Bomb (Danny McBride).
Reluctantly, Red embraces the program and works on his “anger issues,” until the town becomes distracted when a boatload of pigs come to visit. Led by an oinker named Leonard (Bill Hader), the pigs secretly want to steal the island’s unhatched eggs, but convince the happy-go-lucky birds otherwise. No one suspects Leonard’s nefarious plans expect for Red, who must find a way to save the day without losing his cool.
In the grand scheme of things, this is the Angry Birds origin story. We finally learn why they’re so damn angry all the time! It’s because of Leonard’s gluttony, which teaches the townfolk that being angry sometimes isn’t such a bad thing. I think there’s a lesson here? Treat everyone with respect (and try not to eat their unborn babies), and maybe they won’t be so angry all the time. Yeah, that’s something relevant for kids!
Sadly, that’s also where any social relevance stops. Like its simplistically numbing source iteration, The Angry Birds Movie is nothing but a goofy, underwhelming time-passer loaded with hammy puns. You’ll get Calvin Swine billboards, movie posters for Hamlet starring Kevin Bacon, expressions like “Flock my life” and what have you – all the obvious notes. What you won’t get is an engaging, worthwhile story that evokes a buildable universe for the birds, or material above a first-time stand up comedian’s act. Kiddies will enjoy the numerous scenes that involve fat green piglets slapping their fannies, but this one isn’t for adults stuck listening to the umpteenth groan-inducing barnyard “joke.”
Yet, even though this is for children all the way, The Angry Birds Movie makes some shockingly adult references – and without subtlety. One scene has Chuck suggest that instead of saving the eggs, all the birds just start repopulating “all night long,” as he air-humps like a 90s clubber. There’s a ton of these little asides that are meant for mature audiences, which aren’t hidden from younger viewers who will surely have confusing questions afterwards. And let’s not even talk about the vaguely homoerotic vibe suggested with so many references to leather and assless chaps – or constant cannibalism when Leonard’s crew is seen eating pigs-in-blankets by the plate.
The birds are given arms in the film, which lets them emote and interact on a higher level (I’m assuming the upcoming Emoticon movie will do the same?). Chuck – the fast talking ripoff of X-Men’s Quicksilver – gets the most laughs, as Gad rockets through lines of dialogue (and also has a Quicksilver slo-mo scene ripped right from X-Men: Days Of Future Past). Sudeikis is fine as Red, even if his temper tantrums never truly escalate as we’d hope, but Danny McBride feels like he’s just reading off a teleprompter for the first time. Sean Penn lends his voice only to grunt the whole film (which doesn’t find a Groot-like lovability), Peter Dinklage provides comedic relief as an aging, egotistical eagle, and Bill Hader makes as many porky puns as the comedy police will allow – but it’s all real lame, face-value stuff.
We live in a time where children’s cinema pushes boundaries and has the ability to make older viewers weep while achieving laughs. Disappointingly, The Angry Birds Movie doesn’t care about all that. Directors Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly do – by all counts – achieve their goal of making a nice-to-look-at animated feature that transitions Rovio’s smartphone app into Hollywood marketability. Taking cues from the Zucker brothers, every scene weaves some kind of sight gag, but there’s very little going on besides re-titling books to fit the Angry Birds world (Fifty Shades Of Green). It’s a film that doesn’t stretch, plays it safe, and utilizes the bare comedic minimum – but there’s no award for participation here. Just winners and, unfortunately, a lot more laughless losers.
The Angry Birds Movie plays best to children who are easily entertained, but even they deserve better than this.