If you have a smartphone, you’ve likely been privy to the phenomenon of Angry Birds (or one of its inexplicable 15 spin-offs). In general, the game sees you controlling a flock of multi-coloured birds who want to retrieve their eggs, which have been stolen by a group of hungry green pigs. They are hidden in various structures, and the player must eliminate all the pigs to progress. It hardly seems rife with cinematic potential, yet here we are, watching the Angry Birds movie, a cynical cash-grab if there ever were one. It is perhaps a bit better than a film adapted from an app should be, but that isn’t much of an endorsement – it is painfully unfunny, and boring from start to finish.
On Bird Island, the flightless birds lead a mostly happy existence, except for Red (Jason Sudeikis), who is consistently wound up by the minor annoyances of daily life. His rage leads him to anger management class, where he meets fellow misfits Chuck (Josh Gad) and Bomb (Danny McBride). Unhappy at wasting his time there, he becomes even more agitated when a ship full of green pigs wash up onshore and are immediately welcomed by his feathered brethren. Red joins forces with Chuck and Bomb to investigate the real reason behind the pig’s arrival and, when things head south, the birds must look to him to help save the day.
The obvious question when sitting down to this movie is just how painfully it would force in the mechanics of the game (because there was never any hope that it would be good at all). It manages to wring some degree of story from its origin, but when the pigs arrive on the island bringing trampolines and catapults, you immediately start to shake your head and hope for it to be quick.
There is a stellar cast of comic talent here, and even they are unable to find an inch of humour. Only two stand-outs manage to rise above the script – Bill Hader is gloriously smarmy as Leonard, the leader of the pigs, bringing his best car salesman-like charm. Similarly, Peter Dinklage is the out of practice hero Mighty Eagle, who revels in his own glory while enjoying his retirement. These guys aren’t around often enough, and the movie suffers because of it. However, they are the best you’ve got – the screenplay is full of thin character sketches and nothing more.
Sadly, our leads are not very good and the friendship they share is completely unearned. Most annoying is Gad as Chuck, who brings all the charm of Frozen’s Olaf (i.e. none) but can’t back it up with anything humorous, rendering him as off-putting a presence as usual. Sudeikis is fine as Red, but he is completely miscast here – his Red never actually comes across as angry, more snide and sarcastic, and the only thing that actually seems to be angry about him is his isolationist streak and his evident mistrust of immigrants. I’m not certain what type of Disney-style morals Angry Birds wants to put across, but the two I get are that getting angry is bad except for when it’s not, and that you should always be suspicious of people who look different.
If you ignore the slow-motion pratfalls and the incredibly lame puns (the anger management is a free rage bird, for example), there are some decent jokes, and they are the ones distinctly for grown-ups. What kind of kids movie tucks in a reference to The Shining? Similarly, there was a cracking joke about one of the birds being a paedophile that caught me off-guard with just how unexpected it was.
We know that animated movies can be full of heart, wonderfully crafted and engaging for all ages – Angry Birds, however, is none of those. It is a shallow viewing experience that experiences fleeting moments of funny, but it has little else to offer and is clearly more bothered with marketing opportunities than providing decent entertainment.
Director: Clay Kaytis, Fergal Reilly
Cast: Jason Sudeikis (Red), Josh Gad (Chuck), Danny McBride (Bomb), Maya Rudolph (Matilda), Bill Hader (Leonard), Peter Dinklage (Mighty Eagle)
Running Time: 97 Mins