Laboriously unfunny, tasteless and derivative, The Angry Birds Movie feels both unwelcome and overdue—like an obnoxious cousin who shows up for your parents’ 50th anniversary party a week late.
Created by the Finnish company Rovio, the Angry Birds game debuted in 2009, became a huge fad, then, inevitably, faded. (How long ago was 2009 in game years?)
Full disclosure: I never played the game, but the movie feels as dated as a Pac-Man feature.
Hordes of birds who don’t fly — for no reason other than that they didn’t fly in the game–live mindlessly cheerful lives on tiny, remote Bird Island. They’re convinced that their island is the only inhabited place in the world, and that it’s watched over by Mighty Eagle, even though no one has seen him in years.
Red (voice by Jason Sudeikis), the main character is the crabby avian equivalent of a misanthrope. He idolizes Mighty Eagle, and was mocked for it as a chick—and for his prominent eyebrows.
After an unpleasant confrontation, Red is sentenced to an anger management class with two other misfits: the frenetic Chuck (Josh Gad, not nearly as funny as he was as Olaf in Frozen) and big, lumpish Bomb (Danny McBride), who explodes when he’s angry, yet somehow survives repeated blasts with just a few scorch marks.
When Leonard (Bill Hader) and a few assistant pigs arrive in a weird boat, the birds welcome them. The Pigs win the birds’ hearts by staging big parties and performing unnecessary musical numbers. Red is initially suspicious of them, and he grows more suspicious as increasing numbers of pigs arrive.
Naturally, the only ones who’ll listen to him are Chuck and Bomb. The trio of misfits scales a remote mountain to ask Mighty Eagle for help. But their hero turns out to be a space cadet stuck in the Disco Era.
The disillusioned trio returns home, only to discover the pigs wrecking the town and stealing all the birds’ eggs, which they plan on cooking and eating—a nasty plot twist in a movie ostensibly geared to children. To no one’s surprise, Red is forced into the role of community leader, organizing the assault on the pigs’ island to rescue the eggs before they’re turned into brunch. (Oddly, the pigs talk about omelets, but try to boil the eggs.) An hour after the film begins, the birds finally get angry.
Under Red’s generalship, the birds launch themselves from a giant slingshot, smashing the weird, precarious towers the pigs inhabit. (Presumably, they’re modeled on the designs in the game.) At the climax of the attack, Red faces off against Leonard, the king of the pigs, in a duel devoid of the suspense it should have. Leonard still has one egg, which he attempts to cook with a candle in a vault full of TNT. How did a villain that dumb mastermind the scheme to steal the eggs?
Red ends up the town hero, with Chuck and Bomb as his new best friends, a revelation that hardly counts as a spoiler, as the audience saw it coming from the first few of the movie’s seemingly endless 97 minutes.
The Angry Birds Movie is woefully short on original ideas. Chuck is essentially Hammy, the hyperactive squirrel in Over the Hedge. But directors Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly don’t use his speeded-up mannerisms as effectively as David Bowers and Sam Fell did. Mighty Eagle recalls the spaced-out guru voiced by Jeff Bridges in the second Happy Feet film. Red is yet another misfit who ends up fitting in, like so many other heroes in recent animated films.
And how many times do audiences have to watch a fat animated character wiggle his butt at the camera?
Amid the non-stop, nattering dialogue, the filmmakers offer jokes about pee, vomit, snot, flatulence and spit, as if the term “family film” were synonymous with gags the Three Stooges would dismiss as vulgar.
The Angry Birds Movie feels like a desperate effort to breathe life into a passé franchise so they can sell more stuffed toys and related merchandise. The ending inevitably sets up the chance of a sequel, but one Angry Birds movie is more than enough.