Movie review: Angry Birds
The film adaptation of the “stupid game” features an all-star voice cast hurled through a surreal landscape, capturing the essence of modern times as flightless birds struggle to save their eggs from greedy pigs
Starring: Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Sean Penn, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Peter Dinklage, Bill Hader, Keegan-Michael Key
Directed by: Clay Kaytis, Fergal Reilly
Running time: 1hr 37 mins
MPAA Rating: General
By Katherine Monk
The New York Times dubbed them “stupid games” – time-wasting addictions that tickle the pleasure centre with the entirely abstract lure of “winning.” They have a basic premise, a skeletal plot and hypnotic bursts of pixels, meaning a “stupid game” such as Angry Birds is the perfect intellectual property to turn into a feature film.
The Finnish game app has been downloaded over 700 million times, making the once-floundering company Rovio one of the most successful casual game developers in the world, and its flock of flightless misfit birds a familiar commodity.
Film producers love a built-in audience just as much as they love a kids’ movie with licensing potential, so it’s no wonder Sony and Rovio put their bird brains together and gave us a full-length digitally animated feature about an island of birds, and a horde of evil green pigs who colonize their land, then steal their eggs.
The real surprise is that it works at all. Thanks to a script penned by Saturday Night Live and The Office alumnus Jon Vitti, we aren’t just watching birds hurled through the air with the help of a slingshot. We hear the tale of Red (Jason Sudeikis) – an ordinary bird with some anger management issues.
Red is a self-imposed outcast who refuses to flock around with the rest of the gang. He doesn’t really like the nesters. His only hero is Mighty Eagle (Peter Dinklage), the legendary savior and sage of the
island whose long absence weighs on Red’s crimson feathers, accentuating his existential angst.
And honestly, Red’s un-chipper attitude is a bit of a downer for the first few scenes. He’s so grumpy and cold — and grown-up – that he seems like an odd choice for a kid movie protagonist. Yet, once the evil green pigs storm the beaches and start hatching their evil plan to steal all the eggs, Red’s anger becomes a positive tool.
Spurred into action, he rallies some unlikely friends to his side and seeks out Mighty Eagle, believing the one bird with real wings may be able to save the day. Chuck (Josh Gad) and Bomb (Danny McBride) ensure we get some buddy chemistry, but these scenes feel the most pat.
Angry Birds – The Movie – finds the heights of giddiness when it surrenders to its own weirdness, and exploits the surreal environment where flightless birds are doing battle with toxic green pigs. It feels like something Dali would have dreamed up after imbibing a bottle of absinthe and choking on a ham sandwich.
Everything unfolds in a blur of colour accompanied by a funny voice, which is sort of what you want in a kids’ movie: an entertaining ride in the back seat of escapism.
Some adults may bemoan the cheeky use of bathroom humour and the inevitable battle scenes, but outside of Mighty Eagle’s urination scene, no moment lasts long enough to offend.
More importantly, Vitti’s script isn’t trying to please kids and adults through different gags. It plays the same jokes for both sides, and still makes it funny. My one laugh-out-loud moment came when we see a brief scene of a mother bird packing her kids’ school lunches by regurgitating into two Zip-Loc bags.
It’s stupid. But it’s funny because for all the insanity, Angry Birds is still rooted in our universe, from the laws of physics to the underlying themes.
Angry Birds is about greedy, green-back pigs who steal the most prized possessions from a kind, trusting flock. It’s essentially another Wall Street story, only this time around, it has the giblets to acknowledge it’s all just a “stupid game.”
THE EX-PRESS, May 19, 2016