The Angry Birds Movie, 2016.
Directed by Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly.
Starring Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader, Kate McKinnon, Tony Hale and Peter Dinklage.
Find out why the birds are so angry. When an island populated by happy, flightless birds is visited by mysterious green piggies, it’s up to three unlikely outcasts – Red, Chuck and Bomb – to figure out what the pigs are up to.
The first thing everybody is probably thinking about The Angry Birds Movie is that it is about five years too late. Angry Birds was one of the first games to really hit the big-time on the app store, alongside Doodle Jump, and preceding the likes of Fruit Ninja and Candy Crush. With the game initially released in 2009, it seemed an odd but conversely obvious choice for a feature-length movie, considering that since its release seven years ago the game has been downloaded more than one billion times.
In the works since 2013, The Angry Birds Movie features an all-star cast of stellar voice performance, including Peter Dinklage (the Mighty Eagle), Jason Sudekis (protagonist Red), Charlie XCX (Willow) and Sean Penn (Terence). The core cast of heroes consists of some very familiar favourites from the game: Red (Sudekis), Chuck (the yellow one, voiced excellently by Josh Gad), Bomb (Danny McBride) and Terence (the big one). Meeting at an anger management class (obviously), the foursome go on to thwart the attempts of a creepily lecherous pig empire, led by Leonard (Bill Hader), from stealing and eating the offspring of the island’s bird inhabitants.
A slightly unnerving plot for a kids’ movie, obviously convoluted to fit the premise of the game; but with a who’s who of NBC’s Saturday Night Live on the cast list, one might be forgiven for expecting some wacky overtones to The Angry Birds Movie. Alongside the threat of having their unborn children eaten, we also see the birds treated to a weird erotic Chippendale show featuring the shiny animated backsides of green pigs. In fact, sex and sexuality seems be an implicit theme throughout the movie (probably due to the prominence of eggs and birth in the plotline), arguably there for the mums and dads, but not really necessary at all, as it comes off as just a little bit unnerving. Birds undergo fertility treatment to help them lay eggs, with some offbeat comments from Chuck and others about the female birds among the islanders getting busy and laying more eggs. Mixed in among this is a sniff of liberalism, two fingers to Republican America (typically SNL sentiments), highly reflective of the longstanding development from left-leaning Finland behind Angry Birds (both the game and the movie): a glimpse of two female birds mourning the loss of their egg, and a ‘Coexist’ sticker slapped on the back of a riot van.
Weird enough for you yet? Strangely, none of these quirks, which reflect both the producer team and the writer (John Vitti of The Simpsons) behind Angry Birds, has any real bearing on a fun, if a little formulaic plot, which does everything right for a kids’ movie while leaving just enough inside jokes and nods to keep parents entertained, too, with witty, well-cast and compelling voices behind some familiar faces in the form of animated birds. Fun, ferocious and bitingly funny at times, there are plenty of laughs to be had by all ages.
While the animation of The Angry Birds Movie leaves something to be desired, music by composer Heitor Pereira offers additional scope to the Angry Birds world, while riffing off of the original game theme. The first act is a little monotonous after an exciting opening sequence with plenty of slapstick humour, but things pick up with the arrival of the pigs to the birds’ island and the beginnings of the angry birds’ quest to defeat them. A typical hero’s journey, we see Red go from a loser to saving the day and restoring order to the island. A few of the jokes don’t quite hit the mark (while elsewhere there were plenty of tropes as well as missed opportunities), or become lost in a flurry of feathers, action scenes and obscure references. Surprisingly, the actual elements of the game (sling-shotting birds through structures to hit green pigs) fit extremely well into the plot and are visualised beautifully, calling all of the simple but effective illustrative design of the original game. Unfortunately, having not played the game itself in about four years, some of the characters featured in the film as well as the structures and set design, which I assume are supposed to incite a spark of recognition in the audience, were totally lost on me, and I’m sure the majority of the rest of the audience, young and old.
Thinking about it, I highly doubt many of the kids in the movie theatre had even played, or heard of Angry Birds at all prior to this film release. Despite this, they seemed to enjoy it, suggesting that a love of the app is no prerequisite for having fun with this energetic, simple but charming kids’ comedy, whatever your age.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Kirsty Capes – Follow me on Twitter