The Angry Birds Movie is the inevitable centerpiece of output in the Finnish game developer Rovio’s long commercial strategy. After seemingly dozens of app games, toy lines, a cartoon series, and a reported 50% decline in profits in 2015, why the hell wouldn’t there be a splashy cartoon with name stars and aggressive marketing to polish it all off? Get it, Rovio. The kids love Sean Penn’s boundless vitriol and Oscar-winning credentials in their corporate cartoons.
It should come as no surprise that The Angry Birds Movie is a loud and dumb children’s film, but for what it’s worth, there are plenty of cinematic commercial ventures that are louder and dumber and so on than the well-meaning and slickly sold Birds. Here’s some more puke, poop, and pee jokes for the kids, in thinly agreeable fashion. Yet what exactly is this film? It’s Rovio’s world of characters and objects jammed into a flitting farce about birds fighting pigs (zoologists: don’t ask). Throw in some themes about “stranger danger” into the mix, with a little Disney Channel “nuh-uh” attitude, and you’ve got something kids will enjoy and parents will barely tolerate.
Need the parent consumer rating guidelines?
The most objectionable thing is a 30-second piss gag. The film’s not worth 3D ticket prices.
What more do you want from this review?
Okay, fine. What kind of plot gets assigned to a Saturday morning adaptation of a 99¢ distraction? Meet Red. He’s the blushing, bombing, limbless fella that doubles as the Rovio game’s protagonist. Jason Sudeikis, the Saturday Night Live alum and ersatz Chevy Chase, is Red, the bird with the bad attitude. He has Scorsese eyebrows and a Joe Pesci style, fuming at every turn and ostracized by his flighty community. Red’s home of Bird Island is full of beady eyes, a kind of forced utopia. Red knows what’s good, though: anger is a real emotion and dissent a healthy option, or some such.
When Red bungles a birthday by accidentally imprinting himself onto a hatching chick, he’s ordered to anger management after fighting his judge. Now, none of those details and occurrences make much sense upon second thought. Oh, and these birds don’t fly, either. If confused, consult your nearest child.
In therapy, Red meets the daffy, yellow Chuck (a surprisingly non-grating Josh Gad), the prone-to-explosions Bomb (a disappointingly restrained Danny McBride), and the immense, brutish Terence (Sean Penn, grunting, for what was likely a minimum of a million dollars). Red doesn’t think he has a problem, and sassy remarks flesh out most of the next 90 minutes. Famed Simpsons scribe Jon Vitti (“Mr. Plow,” that’s his name) wrote this script, and offers fast pacing and a few creative, left-field jokes, even if he rarely finds a pun he doesn’t abuse. The film’s an eight-and-over joke factory. Red suggests “Bird Control” to a couple with too many kids. There are punchlines like “cardinal sins” and ”bird-watching.” “Party Foul,” a bashful Bomb says when he bursts. It’s shocking that the phrase “for the birds” never pops up.
At the 30-minute mark, green hillbilly pigs come to shore on their shambling ships and devise a scheme to steal all the birds’ eggs, despite asserting otherwise. Their puns include: “Insta-ham,” “piggy backing,” and other such expressions. It’s up to Red and company to stop them in a way that resembles the original game’s style and physics for maximum brand synergy. The birds slingshot into the pigs’ castle of boulders and planks, causing measurable, amusing property damage, to get the eggs back.
To Angry Birds’ credit, the story dashes, the colors are easy on the eyes, and the occasional odd gag lands. An extended daydream about a character as a buff, Bang Bang Bart-like male stripper works, as does the final act’s aerial tracking visuals as the birds take to the skies. But that’s not enough to mask the smell of commerciality, the grating attitude, and the curious disappointment in the film underutilizing its voices (vivid young comics like Kate McKinnon, Hannibal Buress, and Billy Eichner are in the cast and almost impossible to hear).
In keeping with the film’s phrasings, The Angry Birds Movie comes out scrambled at best.