By Matthew McKibben | May 20, 2016
Director: Clay Kaytis, Fergal Reilly
Writers: Jon Vitti
Starring: Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader, Peter Dinklage, Sean Penn, Keegan Michael-Key, Kate McKinnon, Tony Hale, Hannibal Buress
Before I begin my review, I’d like to apologize for my tardiness in getting my Angry Birds review written and posted. I saw the movie last Saturday with my kids and should have had this review up and posted well before the movie’s release date today, but I’ve been knee deep in another addictive round of playing Angry Birds on my iPhone, only this time it’s Angry Birds Pop, one of those games where you line up matching color dots to work your way through the level. When I haven’t been busy at work or with household duties, I’ve been busy trying to knock those little green pigs out of their seemingly safe perches. Sad, I know.
When Rovio released Angry Birds in 2009, like tens of millions of people around the world, I downloaded the game and obsessively played it seemingly non-stop for about a month or ten. I’m pretty sure I stopped playing long enough to eat, sleep, and look after my kids, but I certainly don’t remember doing so. Like a lot of other games one dives into and obsesses over, though (Tetris comes to mind), when it got old, it got old fast. After having the cold-shakes for a few days, I moved the game on my phone to the same folder I store “Voice Memos” and the iPhone Compass, the iPhone “junk drawer” as I call it.
I like to tell myself that my recent relapse into Angry Birds playing has something to with the upcoming movie thrusting the fun of that game back into my consciousness. And perhaps I could even take it out a bit further and say me picking the game back up was so I could be better equipped to both watch the movie and write this review, but the truth of the matter is that there’s just something addicting about the mechanics of that game. The folks at Rovio perfected a game that’s equal parts fun and strategy. Usually online/phone games favor one side of that equation over the other, but Angry Birds is both fun and (seemingly) good for your cognitive skills.
You know, before I go on with this review, Angry Birds is beckoning me. I’ll be right back…
Okay, I’m back. Almost defeated that level. One more bird would have done the trick. Where was I? Yes, the review. It wasn’t long into my first obsessive round of playing Angry Birds back in 2009 that I started to wonder what the story was. Sure, the game had a few interludes where they hinted that these pigs were stealing eggs and the eggs were important to the birds, but I wasn’t sure if there was some kind of long history between the birds and the pigs that I should have been aware of. Maybe I should have left well enough alone, because it doesn’t take too much intellectual imagination of the Angry Birds game-play before one starts noticing the basic premise of Angry Birds is a little… troubling and morally questionable, what with the using “angry” airborne suicide bombers to take out architectural structures housing green pigs… green capitalist pigs who are hoarding eggs from the birds who laid them.
I came to the conclusion that I was more than likely over-analyzing this property (as usual) and that what I really needed was a story to flesh this all out. Surely, a Hollywood movie would put a clever spin on this story and I’d spend two hours laughing at myself for ever thinking that this was all just a weird, probably unintentional story about red birds with thick eyebrows using bombs, flight, and missiles to level buildings sheltering capitalist pigs because they stole the birds’ goods and resources. Nope. That’s exactly what this story is. Only instead of it being that simple, it’s also the story about how and why these birds are angry and how they use their anger to destroy the pigs’ native lands. After leaving the theater, my kids spent the rest of the day playing with the Angry Birds toys they got from their McDonald’s Happy Meals at lunch, while I spent the afternoon crying while curled up in the fetal position, horrified at what I had just witnessed; the horrors of the world made fresh and funny via bright colors and Blake Shelton’s music (CO-WRITTEN BY GWEN STEFANI OMG CUT MY WRISTS OPEN)
Wait. Hold on. Time to go play Angry Birds again. Gotta defeat that stupid pig and his stupid pig family. Be right back.
ARGH! I did worse than last time. Maybe I need to be done with this stupid ass game… just delete the damn thing from my iPhone, once and for all. Okay, yes, the movie was exactly what I feared it would be, only the experience itself was made all the more dreadful by the characters themselves being really, really unpleasant. The movie is called Angry Birds and that’s exactly what they are; angry, unpleasant, and not all that fun (or funny) to be around. Beyond the interpretation I presented above, the movie is also as simple and easy to understand as the game itself. Jason Sudeikis stars as Red, the red angry bird. Got that? He’s red in the game, he’s red in this, and his name is Red. He’s angry. Josh Gad (because he’s inexplicably in everything these days) stars as Chuck, the yellow bird who can go supersonic at the drop of a hat. He’s Chuck because when you need that building destroyed in the game, you chuck this bird at it. Got it? Danny McBride stars as Bomb. Any guess on what he does?
The only actor who acquits himself okay is Peter Dinklage as Mighty Eagle. He provides the only true laugh out loud moment in the entire movie and it’s a doozy. But other than Dinklage, the rest of the cast appears to have been here for the paycheck and the paycheck alone, Sean Penn in particular. If he has any actual lines, I don’t remember them. The script needed someone to grunt and when you need someone to grunt, you go with multi-Academy Award winning “greatest actor of his generation,” Sean Penn. Sigh… This movie kind of depresses me, to be honest. I hate it when a movie has talented voice actors like Jason Sudeikis, Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader, and Peter Dinklage and somehow manages to be this unfunny and unpleasant. But then again, the audience I saw it with ate this movie up and gave it a rousing ovation after it was over, so what do I know?
This is the first directorial work by directors Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly and it shows. Their previous work was as animators on vastly superior movies like Wreck It Ralph and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. I can’t say I was altogether that impressed, as beyond the troubling themes of the story, the rest of the movie is fleshed out with none-too-subtle pop-cultural references and direct scene-to-scene rip offs from superior movies (there’s an X-Men: Days of Future Past Quicksilver rip off here that fell super flat in its predictability). The animation was decent, but this is one of those animated movies that was going to sink or swim on the strength of the story, and both on thematic and storytelling fronts, this movie is a dud. But even if they had been master directors, the fact of the matter is I just couldn’t get past the story here. I’m all for a movie in which an angry person learns how to mellow a bit and become a thriving member of his community but when that community then goes on to destroy an entire civilization’s buildings through aerial terrorism, I felt like I was having a “blame America first” debate circa 2003. Are the birds justified in destroying these building and basically killing these pigs where they sleep? Are the birds’ eggs symbolic of how we plundered the oil from the Middle East, or symbolic of how we drone-bombed their children? Is this a symbolic retelling of the Palestine-Israel conflict? I need Tom Brokaw to sort all this out.
GAH… I CAN’T DO IT. I can’t go on. I gotta finish this stupid unbeaten Angry Birds level. I’m going to let my kids Parker and Logan finish this review.
Parker and Logan: (spoiler alert) The movie was super fun and funny. I laughed a lot. I liked it when the Eagle peed in the “Fountain of Wisdom.” I also liked it at the end when the babies come out all like PISSSHHHHH makes fist and pretends to fly through the air and runs into living room wall I also liked it when the teacher farted a bomb out of her butt!!!!
MATTHEW MCKIBBEN RATING: 4/10
PARKER AND LOGAN RATING: 10/10