THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE (Sony)
Dir. Fergal Reilly, Clay Kaytis, Script. Jon Vitti
Cast: (Voices) Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Danny McBride
Plot: Whatever it takes to shoehorn the Angry Birds app in there – no matter how awkwardly they do it.
My plot summary might be kind of harsh; the team burdened with creating a movie based on an app that critics, I would be willing to hedge my bets, have never described as having a complex backstory with strong, three-dimensional characters, have actually given this a decent job. The Angry Birds Movie, not so much anticipated as being three years past the game’s fall from the cliff of relevance, could have been a lot worse. A lot, lot worse. It’s testament to the animators and writers that they were able to create what is a tolerable cinematic experience for a film based entirely on shooting birds at buildings.
But make no mistake – that doesn’t mean its a very good movie. I’ll admit it does have its redeeming qualities though: for one, its beautifully short, at a merciful 92 minutes. As bitter as that might sound, the film really does fly-by, keeping up a really quick pace throughout. Writer Jon Vitti, the man that Sony decided was right for the writing job equivalent to getting tar-and-feathered (I know, good pun: if you like that you might like this picture actually), has come up with a decently workable plot, with just enough backstory and world-building to get you invested. He’s created a number of decent characters, who aren’t entirely one note – Red is our protagonist, played by an acid-tounged Jason Sudeikis, and not only is he genuinely quite funny, his backstory does him justice (although there are clichés all over it). The other main characters, Chuck and Bomb (a warm display from Danny McBride), are also pretty good too, even though Josh Gad has seemingly gone into this movie being brainwashed into wholeheartedly believing his performance in Pixels, the first performance ever executed at the frequency of a dog whistle, was deserving of an Academy Award. This is because the genuinely talented Broadway star and Frozen snowman is once again on a spectacular one-man crusade to break the eardrums of the world’s children.
Vitti has also found another novel way to make the film tolerable to those over the age of 6 years old – PUNS. This film is laced with puns in the same way that the Sony executives who greenlighted this in the first place were laced with Rohypnol – relentlessly and, on reflection, maybe too much. The dialogue functions near-entirely on puns, and not only that, there’s a lot of pun-based sight gags as well, specifically when we see the society of the invading pigs, led by Bill Hader, whose spectacular talents (he ‘voiced’ BB-8, in case you didn’t know) are wasted here in a one-note role. Yes, the villainous pigs from the Angry Birds app have also been shoehorned in, and they are still green, in the greatest insult to pigs since we decided bacon was really nice in sandwiches. And when the birds and the pigs inevitably clash over differing political ideologies (I’m kidding), we have an excuse for the mechanics of the gameplay itself to be included in the film. In case you were wondering how on earth they handle the well-travelled plot device of catapulting a flightless bird (quick sidenote: WHY IN FUCK’S NAME CAN’T THEY FLY!?) at the buildings of pork-filleted infidels, it’s actually one of the more joyous parts of the movie. The chiefs of the animated film, Fergus Reilly and Clay Kaytis, do a very decent job in capturing what made the game so addictive for the world’s young commuters.
However, that’s where the strengths of the film come to an end. The Angry Birds Movie has come in at $80m, which is a sizeable chunk of money, but when you compare it to other big animated projects, its just a drop in the ocean: DreamWorks regularly spends in the $130-150m range, and Pixar bet $200m on The Good Dinosaur a few months ago. Sony’s penny pinching is unfortunately quite obvious. The whole thing seems kind of washed out – while there’s detail in the feathering, the environments in which the birds walk (NOT FLY?!) aren’t so well done. In one sequence, the three birds who band together to stop the evil, surprisingly industrious pigs, decide to climb a mountain to find a mythical figure who they hope will give them counsel on their suspicions. This mountain is ripped straight out of the first Kung Fu Panda movie. And furthermore, and I do hate to flog this horse to breaking point, but why in the name of the fundamental laws of not only biology, but basic logic, is a significant part of this movie dedicated to the struggle of BIRDS climbing a MOUNTAIN? Not, as would seem pretty obvious to all rational human beings, FLYING TO THE TOP, but scaling it rock-by-rock. Apparently the only bird who can fly, therefore attaining a mythical status, is Mighty Eagle, played by a game Peter Dinklage, who requires a vinyl recording of Rick Astley’s prospective national anthem for all humankind, Never Gonna Give You Up, just to get up in the air.
The gaping failures in the logic don’t stop there – a significant plot obstacle is resolved with the pluck of a feather too. Admittedly, I have to give a lot of credit to the people that produced this film, because I respect that as an IP, Angry Birds doesn’t lend itself in any way to an epic cinematic adaptation, nor one in any filmed entertainment category presently existing and yet to be invented. However, despite my deep sympathies, The Angry Birds Movie can’t transcend the fundamental issues adapting it has. After a promising first 10 minutes, the movie just degenerates back into simple, if sometimes funny, formula. I would hate to use a pun to describe The Angry Birds Movie, but the screenwriter used them pretty liberally, so I think I’m allowed. Frankly, while a lot of effort has gone into making this animated flick, it’s concept is flightless, the narrative doesn’t quite earn it’s wings, and the whole thing ends up a little bit of a turkey.
BEST WATCHED: Unless you’ve got a kid, or you are a purveyor of the world’s finest puns, I’d sit this one out.
Jason Sudeikis has a small role in Race, the Jesse Owens biopic coming out pretty soon at the time of writing this, and will also appear in the long-delayed comedy Masterminds, if it ever does get released by its struggling studio, Relativity. Josh Gad will next be screaming his way back into musical fare with Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast, and while a sequel to the omnipresent Frozen hasn’t been slated yet, its going to happen, a bit like lunchtime, or another series of Supernatural. Meanwhile, Danny McBride is slated for an appearance in Sausage Party, which I talked about in my previous review, and has managed to win a role in Ridley Scott’s much-anticipated Alien: Covenant, coming next year if all goes well.