Monday, May 23, 2016


Remember Angry Birds? It was that game you might've played on your phone for a couple months six years ago? Well, now there’s a CGI animated movie from Sony to answer the not-so-pressing questions of who are those birds and why are they so angry? If you recall the game involved flinging bird projectiles from a giant slingshot to smash into pigs who stole their eggs, I think you can piece the answers together. The filmmakers behind such a crass commercial project as The Angry Birds Movie haven’t done much to elaborate on the game’s basic premise. They’re content to just graft on plot points we’ve seen in lots of other cartoons. There’s an outcast who needs to double down on being himself to save the day and win his community’s acceptance. A hero appears to die in the final explosion, but grief is interrupted by the reveal that – surprise! – he survived. Endless colloquial patter and second-hand cultural references from celebrity voices load up the dialogue. And then it all ends in a dance party. But, you know, name recognition counts for a lot, I suppose.

The movie is about Red (Jason Sudeikis), a mean, grumpy, misanthropic jerk of a bird, a walking bad mood who grumbles about everything and makes fun of everyone. He has no patience either, and is quick to take offense. He’s an Internet comment, or maybe a Twitter egg. He’s one angry bird on a peaceful island of stubby flightless feathery lumps you’ll recognize from the game. They don’t like him, so the feeling’s mutual. They want to send him to anger management courses, but of course that doesn’t work because Red needs to be able to channel his negative emotions into teaching the birds to fight back after they’ve been tricked by a bunch of pigs (led by Bill Hader) into welcoming porcine strangers into their homes and end up having their eggs stolen. The meek flock, full of distinctive comedians’ voices there to distract the parents (Danny McBride, Josh Gad, Maya Rudolph, Keegan-Michael Key, Kate McKinnon, Tony Hale, Hannibal Buress, and others), needs to become Angry Birds of a feather.

Writer Jon Vitti, who apparently brings none of his smarter comedy experience working on Saturday Night Live, The Larry Sanders Show, The Office, and more to his family friendly scripts (like this, and The Squeakquel), spends an awful lot of time getting to this point, most of the runtime in fact. Why a movie based on a game everyone knows would feel the need to lay so much track for its preposterously simple concept is beyond me. Is there any viewer who won’t know what’s about to happen? Eventually, the birds fling themselves into Pig Land and destroy everything in sight with the help of an uncouth, lazy bald eagle. So it’s just your average everyday colorfully dumb kids’ movie about righteous anger as an asset, territorial xenophobia as the only alternative to gullibility, and the need for a red-faced strongman to lead our heroes in excusable genocide. You know, the old someone-does-wrong-to-you-so-burn-your-enemies-to-the-ground family film moral. Yikes.

Only coming alive in spurts in the climax, when the movie manages to make a direct translation of gameplay into something like action and movement, the whole thing is otherwise agonizingly static and manic, birds standing around trading bad quips and engaging in tame, unimaginative animated antics. It’s also the dirtiest kids’ movie in ages, with wiggling cartoon butts, jokes about poop and pee, and all sorts of barely veiled entendres like a disgruntled bird chirping, “pluck my life,” a bird with a large brood asked if she’s ever heard of “using bird control,” and a pig’s bookcase with “Fifty Shades of Green” open. All that and more too isn’t funny, and rarely works on a child’s level. And what would a 7-year-old make of a Shining reference? Or a pig named Jon Hamm? These are moments for literally no one.

It’s just dire garbage, empty-headed and utterly worthless. There’s not a single spark of imagination to be found in the soulless, vacant frames, putting who knows how many man-hours of talented animation work to waste. Not a story so much as feature length product integration – not just to move apps, but also a Blake Shelton single (played twice), and whatever toys you can find in your local shops and Happy Meals – it can’t even be bothered to think up memorable characters, noteworthy slapstick, or even one good catchphrase. (Have we fallen so far that a movie as dumb and pointless as this can’t even choke up one annoying line for kids to repeat on the way out of the theater?) I found the movie agonizingly slow and tediously uninspired, somehow not only less fun and entertaining, but also significantly less smart than the simplistic game. Mind-numbingly predictable and carelessly cruel, the whole thing is so thoughtless and witless the world feels like a worse place for having it.

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