The Angry Birds Movie

Posted by Joel Copling on May 19, 2016

Expectations are not sensations with which to enter a movie with a properly open mind, but nevertheless, it is a natural state in which to be. It can be fairly reasonably stated, then, that one does not expect much from the likes of "The Angry Birds Movie." It delivers on that score, but it also takes so long for directors Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly to introduce the mechanics central to the smartphone app upon which it based, it's a wonder the film finds something else to do with the concept. You've probably operated the app before and for too long while needing to do other things: The player is given a slingshot in which a bird is placed, enacts a flinging motion at anywhere from one to 89 degrees, and hopes that the aviary projectile collapses a wobbly structure in which opposing pigs reside.

It is not an app that lends itself to a cinematic experience, even something as relatively simple as a silly movie meant to divert children for an hour and a half and annoy their parents. The problem is that, even with such limited scope, screenwriter Jon Vitti actually attempts to comment on the nature of rageful humors here by offering a dubious "message." We'll get to that message in a bit, but just keep in mind that, yes, the adaptation of a time-wasting smartphone app attempts to take the descriptor of these birds seriously and attribute to it some form of emotional logic. It doesn't work, it's occasionally off-putting, but luckily the film as a whole isn't an entirely brainless affair. Misplaced though its heart undoubtedly is, it has one. Another problem is that our so-called protagonist isn't exactly angry.

Red (voice of Jason Sudeikis), so named for his scarlet plumage, is a bitter, sardonic character whom it is nearly impossible to rally behind. He has a genuine personality defect and an experience that can be called the core of this serious problem: Kids from his youth called him "Eyebrows" for his well-sized ones. That doesn't excuse him, and that also doesn't give us good reason to warm up to the petty criminal Chuck (voice of Josh Gad) or the explosive, self-explanatorily-nicknamed Bomb (Danny McBride), two of his classmates in a court-mandated anger management course. His village is an impressively detailed one, and the funniest gags in the movie largely have to do with the ancillary characters, such as a judge (voice of Keegan-Michael Key), who attempts to compensate for his small size in a predictable but amusing way, and the Mighty Eagle (voice of Peter Dinklage), a Santa Claus-type legend on the island, or the various pop-cultural references (One does not expect that moment from 1980's "The Shining" to receive a mention).

The plot eventually kicks into gear: Pigs from another island far off in the distance, led by the ominously cheery Leonard (voice of Bill Hader), want to populate the area but eventually try to steal the eggs developed by the other mammals. It's mostly an excuse to introduce gags (some of which, such as Sean Penn's clever, grunting voice work as another of Red's classmates Terence, succeed, while others, such as a disarming number of gags involving thinly veiled sexual humor that pushes the film's PG rating, do not) and the concept for which everyone will be waiting (The plan to get the eggs back involves attacking the city by using said slingshot). The question of who saves the day and how has an obvious answer, and that's where the questionable message pops in: Sometimes uncontrollable anger works. It's pretty irresponsible, but luckily, in all, "The Angry Birds Movie" is only disposable.

Film Information

Featuring the voices of Jason Sudeikis (Red), Josh Gad (Chuck), Danny McBride (Bomb), Maya Rudolph (Matilda), Bill Hader (Leonard), Peter Dinklage (Mighty Eagle), Sean Penn (Terence), Keegan-Michael Key (Judge Peckinpah), Tony Hale (Ross/Cyrus), and Hannibal Buress (Edward).

Directed by Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly and written by Jon Vitti.

Rated PG (rude humor, action).

97 minutes.

Released on May 20, 2016.