The Angry Birds Movie (2016) / Animation-Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG for rude humor and action
Running Time: 97 min.
Cast (voices): Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Bill Hader, Danny McBride, Peter Dinklage, Maya Rudolph, Sean Penn, Keegan-Michael Key, Kate McKinnon, Tony Hale, Hannibal Buress, Ike Barinholtz, Tituss Burgess
Small role (voices): Jillian Bell, Blake Shelton, Alex Borstein, Judah Friedlander
Director: Clay Kaytis, Fergal Reilly
Screenplay: Jon Vitti
Review published May 26, 2016
As we've already had a slew of films based on video games, board games, and children's toys, I suppose it should come as little surprise to see a film based on Finnish company Rovio's smartphone app get the green light to become a major motion picture, particularly one in which so many people have played, both young and old, from all walks of life, all around the world as "Angry Birds" has (over 3 billion downloads and counting). The game has a very mild backstory: birds are angry that pigs have stolen their eggs, so they launch themselves with a slingshot to destroy the pigs in their increasingly complex abodes. Each cartoon-like bird has its own traits that make them either stronger or weaker against various building materials in the structures erected by the green pigs. As a game, it's quite addictive, and a quick and simple diversion for those times when you're just needing a little time to kill between actually doing something with your life, provided that your life isn't merely spent playing games on your phone or tablet.
This somewhat tardy film, given that its popularity has been declining in recent years, fleshes out the characterizations of the various bird types and the pigs (well, the bearded one anyway) in order to construct a more straightforward narrative to build on. Jason Sudeikis (Race) voices Red, aka "eyebrows", a hot-headed cardinal (one presumes) who frequently doesn't quite see eye to eye with his feathered flock around him on the island they all reside in, Bird Island. These non-flying birds think they are all there is in this world until the day that a ship drops anchor on Red's home, destroying it, making him an enemy but the other birds seem more friendly toward their new porcine visitors, not knowing that the fun and friendship they're ostensibly bringing is merely a ruse to get closer to grabbing their precious and delicious eggs from right under their beaks. Now it's up to Red to try to figure out how to save the eggs by getting his bird brethren to mount an attack on the porker stronghold before the swine have had their dinner.
The best thing I can say about The Angry Birds Movie is that it does possess a sassy, wise-aleck-y sense of humor that will likely draw out an occasional chuckle, even if many of these playful puns meta moments don't really make sense within the insular world in which these birds reside, given that they think they are the only beings in the world, and would not be able to draw upon pop culture references that only exist within the world of humans. Along these lines, it will remind some viewers of the kind of humor one might find on animated TV fare for adults, a la those made by Seth McFarlane, and it will come as nor surprise to learn that the screenwriter Jon Vitti (The Simpsons Movie) wrote many episodes of "The Simpsons" and a handful for "King of the Hill".
The choice of voice actors also works well, with each celebrity matching the personalities of their respective wisecracking animal counterparts, including Sudeikis' former SNL pals Bill Hader (Inside Out) as Leonard the piggy leader and Maya Rudolph (Sisters) as Matilda the anger-management counselor. Current SNL player Kate McKinnon (Staten Island Summer) also voices a couple of characters. The character design accurately mirrors the game, which had to be simple due to the small screen size of the smartphone platforms most users play the game on. However, the personalities are all concocted for the film, putting together a hodge-podge of typically dopey or sarcastic one-note characters to riff on pop culture, engage in punny wordplay, or to see get hurt either through their own dense stupidity or as a result of their penchant for anger. Not in a way in which kids will learn any life lessons; the makers of The Angry Birds Movie want to distract and educe giggles from family audiences.
Kids will probably be the primary audience for The Angry Birds Movie, mostly because it is colorful and contains a good deal of mildly crass humor throughout. Adults will tolerate the occasional joke meant just for them, but will likely find little sustenance within the film to sate their entertainment requirements on their own. As for me, I find much more enjoyment in the 2-3 minutes I usually spend playing the actual game than in the 90+ minutes of watching the voiced representatives engage in silly toilet humor and lots of manic combat-based slapstick aimed at nine-year-olds. It's a needless film, pointlessly delivered, existing only to tide over families itching for a movie for the tykes between better releases. Parents who don't break movie theater protocol to play the real Angry Birds app on their phone mid-screening will likely repeat the film's phrase, "Pluck my life", or some variant, not long after the movie begins.
©2016 Vince Leo