“The Angry Birds Movie,” released in theaters nationwide last weekend, is a pretty blatant attempt to revitalize a fledgling video game franchise.
Angry Birds, the first really big game to hit smartphones with universal appeal, saw players launching red, yellow, blue and black birds with a slingshot in an attempt to destroy the homes of green pigs who have taken all the birds’ eggs. The film version of the original game follows the same basic principles, only with a lot more introductory exposition.
Red (voiced by Jason Sudeikis) has been isolated from the rest of the birds on his island due to his rage issues, which he has been required to tamper down by attending anger management classes along with speedy yellow bird Chuck (Josh Gad) and big black bird Bomb (Danny McBride). When a group of pigs led by Leonard (Bill Hader) come to the island, Red is loudly suspicious of their motives, though none of the other birds believe him.
The mundane, largely predictable script from Jon Vitti continues onward exactly how the original mobile game does, with increasingly angrier birds.
The one surprise in “The Angry Birds Movie” from a storytelling perspective is how thinly veiled the sexual innuendos and vulgarity are masked within jokes in the film.
Countless other family-friendly films do a much better job throwing in little hidden jokes for parents sitting through a children’s movie than Vitti does. Using the word “plucking” in replacement of a sexual vulgarity isn’t clever, original or tasteful in a movie that will be seen by very young eyes and ears.
There’s a lot of voice talent within “The Angry Birds Movie,” though directors Clay Kaylis and Fergal Reilly don’t always make the most of it. Oscar winner Sean Penn is the most misused playing the gigantic red bird Terence, who simply growls aside from one line of real dialogue at the film’s conclusion.
Other terrific voice actors – including “Game of Thrones” star Peter Dinklage, Maya Rudolph of “Saturday Night Live” and others – are similarly underutilized. But when “The Angry Birds Movie” gets a voice part right, it knocks it out of the park.
Sudeikis’ dry humor and vocal intonations are perfect for the weakly-written lead Angry Bird, Red. While the cynicism and wit he displays with Red aren’t on the same level as Jason Bateman’s superior turn as Nick Wilde in Disney’s “Zootopia,” Sudeikis offers a performance that’s a near approximation of the wise-cracking antihero motif.
Veteran Broadway actor Gad returns to voice acting after being standout character Olaf in Disney’s megahit “Frozen.” There’s a fresh honesty in Gad’s voice that drives the humor from his character, the speedster Chuck, that resonates throughout the film better than any other vocal performance.
Rovio Animation and Sony Pictures Animation do a remarkable job with “The Angry Birds Movie” from a visual perspective, pulling the small animated characters out of phones and tablets and throwing them on the big screen at a higher quality than could be expected.
The terrific animators behind the film do a remarkably nuanced job with all the major characters, even getting into the specific details of single feather movement on the birds as they fly around the big screen. It’s the only aspect of “The Angry Birds Movie” that could truly be considered on par with the top films in the animated genre.
Moviegoers have seen this purely for marketing purposes only pattern before with “The Prince of Persia,” “Tomb Raider,” “Hitman” and the upcoming “Assassin’s Creed” film later this fall.
But even by those low standards, “The Angry Birds Movie” is little more than a crude attempt to push its mobile products and yet it looks better than any film based on an app should.
As family-friendly films go, “The Angry Birds Movie” isn’t breaking any new ground, nor is it entirely family-friendly if you’re paying close attention to some of the more suggestive jokes in the script.
Nevertheless, Rovio’s high-quality animation and quality voice talent make “The Angry Birds Movie” worth a chance for families willing to turn their brains off for 90 minutes and relax.