Video game adaptation 'Angry Birds Movie' can't quite find its wings
Posted May 23, 2016
“THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE” — 2 stars — Voices of Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader; PG (rude humor and action); in general release
“The Angry Birds Movie” isn’t too bad for a movie based on a video game. But it isn’t too good, either.
For the uninitiated, “Angry Birds” is a game that the masses played on their cellphones a couple of years back. The idea is to launch the projectile — the “Angry Bird” — via slingshot at a variety of little green pigs and their various primitive structures.
Luckily “Angry Birds” isn’t an hour and a half of watching animated flightless birds careen into wooden posts. Directors Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly have tried their best to turn the game into a crafted narrative.
What they came up with is a story about a bird named Red (voiced by Jason Sudeikis). Red has anger management issues and can’t seem to catch a break in life. Like the other birds on his island, he can’t fly, but he also can’t hold a job, keep friends or control his temper.
After a particularly nasty episode at a birthday party — he was the hired clown — Red is sent to anger management class, where he meets Chuck (Josh Gad), Bomb (Danny McBride) and Terence (a grunting Sean Penn). Their instructor Matilda (Maya Rudolph) seems to be suppressing issues of her own, but that’s another matter.
While these guys are trying to work out their deep and penetrating rage issues, the island gets some visitors: a group of green pigs led by the bombastic Leonard (Bill Hader). Red is the only one who harbors any suspicions for the green invaders until they try to make off with the island’s collection of eggs.
Thus, “Angry Birds” becomes a quest to rescue the birds’ unborn children from the evil pigs, who live on their own island in a community that is sufficiently vulnerable to catapulted projectiles. To enhance the story, Red also tries to enlist the help of Mighty Eagle (Peter Dinklage), the one bird on the island who can fly, though no one has seen or heard from him in years.
The plot is pretty simple. The real question is can it entertain the kids, and the answer depends on how receptive your children are to gyrating dance sequences set to covers of old pop standards. This seems to be the go-to move in “Angry Birds,” though never for more than a few seconds at a time. Every character in the “Angry Birds” universe is constantly mugging for attention and laughs, assaulting the audience’s senses in a 21st-century, 3-D fury.
“Angry Birds” also seems determined to set some kind of record for using puns in a feature-length film, peppering the effort with twists of dialogue and numerous visual gags, such as a theater poster on the pig island advertising “Kevin Bacon in Hamlet.”
It has its moments, but you may decide that given the quality of “Angry Birds’” competition, this particular game-turned-film isn’t quite worth the price of admission. Some parents may also squirm at an extended urination joke that introduces Mighty Eagle, drawn out for maximum awkwardness.
But given that most of what you see will be forgotten less than 24 hours after viewing, people will ultimately remember the game far better than anything they remember about “The Angry Birds Movie.”
“The Angry Birds Movie” is rated PG for rude humor and action; running time: 97 minutes.
Joshua Terry is a freelance writer and photojournalist who appears weekly on "The KJZZ Movie Show" and also teaches English composition for Salt Lake Community College. Find him online at facebook.com/joshterryreviews.