Friday, May 27, 2016

The Angry Birds Movie Review

About five or six years ago I read an article that said an Angry Birds movie was in development. Anyone I mentioned this to refused to believe it because the market was already flooded with merchandise based on the popular casual gaming app and no one wanted to see more of it. Additionally, because making a story based on launching spherically shaped birds at building blocks with a sling shot doesn't sound like it has much story potential. Well, The Angry Birds Movie (2016) did finally hit theaters and it was every bit as weak, ridiculous, and unwanted as everyone assumed it would be.
Flightless birds lead a mostly happy existence, except for Red (Jason Sudeikis), who just can't get past the daily annoyances of life. His temperament leads him to anger management class, where he meets fellow misfits Chuck (Josh Gad) and Bomb (Danny McBride). Red becomes even more agitated when his feathered brethren welcome green pigs lead by Leonard (Bill Hader) to their island paradise. As the swine begin to get under his skin, Red joins forces with Chuck and Bomb to investigate the real reason behind their mysterious arrival. When it is discovered that the pigs steal all the eggs from Bird Island, it's time for the birds to get angry, fight back, and save their children. But the only weapon they've got is a gigantic slingshot the pigs gave them as a gift of good will.
The Angry Birds Movie is, of course, based on the app of the same name. Since it was released in 2009, the Angry Birds game has been downloaded more than 3 billion times across all versions and platforms of mobile devices. Angry Birds has become a big merchandise brand name, creating not only several variations of the popular app game, but also plush toys, board games, t-shirts, candies, a line of Hot Wheels cars, LEGO and K'nex sets, sports equipment, pet toys, and more. With so many products already available, it was only a matter of time before a movie was produced. The Angry Birds Movie did feel a lot like both a celebration of the game and a 97 minute commercial for the game and existing merchandise. Of course, there had to be even more merchandise produced specific to the movie itself. The Angry Birds Movie really was a cash grab, and it wasn't even a vaguely amusing cash grab like the Minions movie.
On the one hand, The Angry Birds Movie doesn't take itself too seriously. That's a very good thing, given the ridiculousness of its premise. But at the same time it doesn't take the ridiculous premise seriously enough to take advantage of the potential humor. Jokes often fall flat as they simply draw attention to how weird a situation is. For example, when the anger management instructor is launched via the slingshot, she literally drops fireballs out of her butt onto the pig city below. That happens to be what this character does in the game, but it's given no explanation in the movie. They could have made a joke about spicy burritos, have her be embarrassed when her lady-like demeanor is compromised, or just about anything, but instead they had Red quip "Well, how about that? She can shoot fireballs out of her butt." That was the joke. Many jokes are as bland and fall flat like this. There are a number of bird and pig related puns, most of which I thought felt forced and were disappointing as a connoisseur of delightfully terrible puns. There are a few amusing nods to the game, such as in the opening scene, when Red asks two birds what they rate the birthday cake he delivers, he asks how many stars out of three. This is a reference to the game; the highest score you can get is three stars.
The humor was disappointing, and the writing in general was pretty weak, too. Rescuing eggs of course makes sense, but none of the character's motives beyond that makes much sense. They just do what they do without much of a rhyme or reason behind it. The aforementioned incident of Red delivering a cake had Red arrive late. We're not given a reason for him to be late, and the recipients of the cake accuse him being lazy, tired, or of sleeping in. Nothing suggests that these might have been the case, and Red is established as being a responsible, if grumpy, individual. The reasons for events happening and the motives for why characters act the way they do are left unexplored and unexplained, making the story and characters very weak and flimsy. I realize this is a children's movie, but there are much better children's movies you could take your children to see. The Peanuts Movie, for example, was outstanding. The Angry Birds Movie, is so poor in quality that I can't imagine anyone who is not ten years old or younger enjoying it much. There are a series of 2-D animated shorts based off of the Angry Birds game which have far superior writing than this full length movie.
The Angry Birds Movie is to date the best film adapted from an app. This is a pretty poor endorsement, as I cannot think of a second example of such a phenomena. The story is predictably weak, the humor frequently falls flat, the characters are shallow and have nebulous motivation, and the movie drags on for longer than needed. The Animation is decent enough and the all star cast was great, apart from the lousy script they had to work with. I realize I'm not the target audience here, but Author C. S. Lewis once said, “A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest.” I believe the same can be said about children's movies; a lot of Disney films are enjoyed enthusiastically by adults. The Angry Birds Movie is mostly an annoying commercial for products you likely already own. This is not worth seeing in theaters, wait for it on home video if you must. If you really want an Angry Birds experience, you're better off spending movie ticket money on the entire collection of Angry Birds ads-free game apps and spending the evening playing those on your Smartphone.

Is there another casual gaming app that might make a good movie? Comment below and let me know!

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  3. I'm often frustrated and sometimes angry. Maybe the movie would be good therapy.

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