A noisy and feathery pile of propaganda, The Angry Birds Movie carries as unexpected a plot as one might expect from a film based on a mobile game. The 2016 movie is directed by Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly and features a screenplay by Simpsons writer Jon Vitti.
The animation of The Angry Birds Movie is rather ordinary, with plenty of fleecy splashes generating the avian world. The sets are small, which makes sense given the restrictive facets of the mobile phone game. The forests and island vistas are plain yet colourful.
The picture opens on Bird Island, where the birds can’t fly. They’ve managed to create a working society and they live happy if deluded lives. Red (Jason Sudeikis) is different. He’s angry and doesn’t fit in. Red is sentenced to anger management classes after a work incident. He meets fellow students Chuck (Josh Gad), Bomb (Danny McBride) and Terence (Sean Penn).
One day, a boat docks on Bird Island and a few green pigs get out. They claim to come in peace and are assimilated into bird society, but Red is apprehensive. He thinks the pigs are up to something and it turns out he’s right, as the pigs overwhelm the birds and take their eggs. Red and his pals seek the help of Mighty Eagle (Peter Dinklage) to fight back.
The plot of The Angry Birds Movie is standard stuff in terms of sentiment and the modest direction carries it through the expected paces. It suggests Bird Island as an unworried society, that all the lousy happiness and peace makes them more susceptible to the pig invasion, and it confirms Red as rightly mad.
Some of the propaganda is disappointingly transparent, like a fear of the Other and their “strange” activities. Some have noted the diversity of the birds in contrast to the singular vision of the pigs, with a neckbeard the only defining feature of the strangely-named King Mudbeard (Bill Hader).
The vocal talents are arranged to play to their strengths, but the script relies so much on riffing that it feels like a Judd Apatow movie. Scenes carry on and on, with a lot of filler involving a visit to the Mighty Eagle and a half-assed journey of discovery that involves one of the most irritating moments to hit the screen this year.
The action is frenetic in that cartoonish style, but there isn’t much by way of innovation. While the mobile game has a certain set of physics behind the bird/pig wars, The Angry Birds Movie relies on a standard bomb-and-blast climax that’s rather disturbing given the context.
The music is also typical, with odd choices seemingly springing from a Google of the term “anger” and “song lyrics.” The Limp Bizkit cover of “Behind Blue Eyes” joins a dumbly-placed KRS-One track and an obvious rendition of Rick Astley’s big tune.
While it’s tempting to compare The Angry Birds Movie to something like The Lego Movie, the latter succeeds in all the ways the former fails. There’s no vitality or heart to The Angry Birds Movie; there’s just a compilation of overlong gags and an sinister narrative about distrusting newcomers. One doesn’t need a giant bird-shooting slingshot to sort this rubbish out.