The Angry Birds Movie should instantly start the alarm bells ringing. As the first smartphone game movie tie-in, the people responsible for creating Angry Birds had a serious bit of work to do. The game itself has no detectable plot other than birds being fired at an assortment of green pigs causing widespread damage en route. Yet it’s utterly preposterous popularity has made it as recognisable as Ant and Dec Dancing on Ice with Graham Norton, and from the moment word was leaked at a movie tie-in, the flop-o-meter was dusted off and plugged into the mains.
The story follows a gloomy children’s entertainer bird, Red (Sudekis), being sent to anger management classes after being late for a children’s hatching party and inadvertently breaking open an egg, subsequently being recognised as the new chick’s daddy. Run by self-aware hippy Matilda (Rudolph), the class teams Red up with frantic speedy yellow bird Chuck (Gad), self-deprecating explosive Bomb (McBride) and giant terrifying fury-ridden Terence (Penn). The unlikely quartet uncover a plot by a recently arrived boatload of green pigs to steal all of the islands eggs while keeping the parents distracted by a series of cowboy-related variety shows.
An obvious reference point for Angry Birds is The Lego Movie, and with sixty years less history and brand tie-ins to delve into it was never going to match the subtleties and ingenious toy-based plot lines of Miller and Lords wonderful movie. What Angry Birds does brilliantly however is humour. There is not a single minute of the film which isn’t packed with gags and jokes; some hit and some miss, but just the amount of puns and quips thrown in make it impossible not to smile almost entirely throughout. Red’s cynical outlook on life is hilariously refreshing in an animated film, and the useless, self-gratifying Mighty Eagle (Dinklage) adds brilliantly to the list of dysfunctional characters, each having their heroic moments but generally filling screen time with their human-like defects.
The Angry Birds Movie has an odd demographic but works really well to satisfy as many people as possible. The script is directed purely at teenagers and adults, with most of the jokey references (Hamnesty International, Fifty Shades of Green, unnerving Shining-type twin pigs) are way above a fledgling audience, yet the bright primary colours, toilet humour and bounciness will keep the younger onlookers entranced. Red’s weary view of the world and increasingly irate reaction to it is pure middle-aged man’s pre-breakdown material, think more Anomalisa’s Michael Stone than Mickey Mouse, and all the surrounding characters show deficiencies only people with many years’ experience on the planet would recognise. Somehow the movie weaves this into a really enjoyable U rated kids film and can genuinely be enjoyed by the grown up dragged along with armfuls of popcorn and super-sized fizzy drinks by the little ones. It not as clever or emotionally astute as a Pixar movie but it’s underlying bleak outlook on life positions it in an entirely enjoyable new location in the animated movie world.
In the final act, the film moves into pure action mode, with the narrative matching the original game exactly. Anyone who hasn’t spent months playing the game during their daily commute may be a little confused at what on earth in going on at times but with upwards of one billion global downloads, the writers obviously didn’t consider this to be a particularly big issue.
In a nod to George Clooney’s wordless Gay Dog in South Park, Penn, the only A lister on the cast list, doesn’t say a single word throughout, satisfying himself with incensed grumbles and wrathful growls. All other characters are cast excellently and Sudeikis has voiced one of the most original enjoyable characters seen for a long while.
The music is great too, there’s no lazy RnB pop tie-ins or singing Shakira gazelles here, each scene is matched perfectly with a song to help pound through the action. How many films can say they have Scorpions, 2 Unlimited, Limp Bizkit, Charli XCX, KRS-One, Black Sabbath and Rick Astley as co-contributors to their soundtrack?
With no real plot to work with, the writers have made a really enjoyable film out of nothing. In a way, the total lack of original premise has worked in their favour, giving them a clean slate to work with, only the characters being used as a link between game and movie. The Angry Birds Movie is a grown up film as much as it is a kids flick and it feels fresh, original and funny. The flop-o-meter, disappointed, is moved back into the cupboard awaiting the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie.
4 / 5
Dir: Clay Kaytis, Fergal Reilly
Scr: Jon Vitti
Cast: Jason Sudeikis, Danny McBride, Josh Gad, Sean Penn, Bill Hader, Peter Dinklage, Maya Rudolph
Prd: John Cohen, Catherine Winder
Music: Heitor Pereira
Country: Finland, USA
Run Time: 97 minutes