Movie Review: 'The Angry Birds Movie' a Fun Flick for Kids

Movie Review: 'The Angry Birds Movie' a Fun Flick for Kids

In the Angry Birds series of (mostly) mobile-app video games, you use a slingshot to flick a bird into a group of pigs resting atop precarious structures. There’s some strategy involved in the arc and speed of each shot, but generally the gameplay involves little more than a single wave of a finger. 

Repeat ad naseum, through hundreds of stages and more than a dozen games, and you have the most famous video game franchise of this decade, complete with a TV series, multiple toy and clothing lines, food products, a Chinese theme park, and a NASA-branded interactive adventure at the Kennedy Space Center. 

And now a blockbuster motion picture, The Angry Birds Movie, which attempts to develop three-dimensional characters and ascribe a backstory to the world of the birds that the makers of the original game likely never imagined. 

Now, I was sceptical that the mechanics of shooting birds into wood-and-rock pig cities via a slingshot was enough to sustain a feature film. My suspicions were confirmed by the 20-minute action finale which sees exactly that take place. 

There isn’t much suspense or joy or any kind of tangible emotion in watching bird after bird after bird launch itself into the pig city and cause massive amounts of damage. “Aim higher!” “Pull me back further!” Some of the birds display the special post-launch powers they have in the games. 

But to what end? The birds are launching themselves against the pigs because the pigs stole their eggs, but how is destroying the pig city going to help them get them back? And why have these stupid pigs built their city on flimsy wooden planks and boxes labelled TNT? That’s just irresponsible.

But maybe I’m asking too much from my animated app-based children’s movie.

Before the senseless destruction of the film’s action-movie climax, which seems to have been dictated by its video game origins rather than any natural progression of its storyline, I dug this slick cartoon adventure, and particularly its put-upon lead.

That would be Red (voiced by Jason Sudeikis), the lone “angry” bird on an island of flightless birds. He’s actually got a touching backstory – he grew up an orphan, and was bullied as a youngster – and watching him slow-burn into violent outburst is a thing of beauty.

It may not be the best message to send to children – there’s a big climactic speech about how anger is good before the birds completely level pig city – but it’s amusing watching Red hold it all in until lashes out and plants a cake in someone’s face.

That lands him in an anger management class led by Stella (Kate McKinnon) where he meets sidekicks Bomb (Danny McBride) and Chuck (Josh Gad) and Terence, voiced by Sean Penn (!),  who literally grunts his way through the entire movie.

When the pigs – led by Leonard (Bill Hader) come to Bird Island under the guise of friendship, Red is the only one to have doubts about their intentions. He seeks the advice of the Mighty Eagle (Peter Dinklage), but by the time he’s proven right he’s on his own to save the eggs.

I enjoyed the first hour of The Angry Birds Movie far more than anticipated before being worn out by the extended, explosive finale. I think kids will enjoy it, too, though the thematic material may be too subversive (there even seems to be commentary on immigration) and the action too violent to recommend for the youngest viewers.

Note: The Angry Birds Movie is screening in a Czech-dubbed version in most Prague cinemas, but you can catch it in English at Cinema City Slovanský dům.

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