The Angry Birds Movie (Clay Kaytis/Fergal Reilly, 2016)
I have a confession to make: I have never played Angry Birds. Does this disqualify me from judging the film based on it? I have avoided all kinds of video games since college, ever since I found myself losing entire nights of sleep completing games on my roommate’s first-generation Game Boy. I am, it seems, rather prone to addiction. The solution is simple: do not play. About 5 or 6 years ago, I tried Second Life, thinking that was enough of a departure from gaming to allow for dabbling. Next thing I knew, it was 3 in the morning, and I had gotten no work done. Account deleted. However, while my game phobia means I am not the target audience for The Angry Birds Movie, it does mean I can judge it purely on how well it tells an entertaining story. Perhaps this makes me the ideal critic (just for this movie, as you can ignore all of my other reviews). Whatever the truth (or not) of that, here are my thoughts.
The Angry Birds Movie – the first directorial outing from animator Clay Kaytis (Frozen) and storyboard artist Feral Reilly (Hotel Transylvania), with a script by Jon Vitti (Alvin and the Chipmunks) – is a beautifully animated (in 3D) confection that is a lot more engaging and sweet than I thought it would be. It tackles big themes in perhaps only the most superficial of ways (this is no Inside Out), yet is a harmless enough bit of entertainment that the whole family can enjoy. True, the sole purpose of the story is probably just to sell you on more games, or to further brand awareness, but at least the filmmakers try hard to hide their mercenary impulse and spin a good yarn. It’s decent fun, and wonderful to look at it. I couldn’t stand the music (treacly versions of songs that deserved better), but that fact did not ruin the experience for me.
The plot? There’s an island, with birds who cannot fly. Why? It’s actually a clever way to justify the later use of a slingshot to launch flight, which is a signature aspect of the original game. Some of these otherwise peaceful creatures have anger issues, which makes them pariah’s in their community, but which will help them later when a horde of egg-loving green pigs arrive from a different island. One thing leads to another, the pigs depart with their treasure trove of eggs, and soon the birds must launch a counter-attack (involving the slingshot). It all fits together rather nicely, even if it’s also silly. Jason Sudeikis (Sleeping with Other People), Bill Hader (Trainwreck), Maya Rudolph (Sisters), Peter Dinklage (X-Men: Days of Future Past), Kate McKinnon (Ted 2), Danny McBride (This Is the End) and Keegan-Michael Key (Keanu), among others, lend their vocal talents to the mix, and an amusing time appears to have been had by all. If you can keep yourself from asking for too much, then you can also join the party for a few laughs.