Directed by Clay Kaytis, Fergal Reilly
Written by Jon Vitti
Starring Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader, Peter Dinklage, Sean Penn, Keegan-Michael Key, Kate McKinnon, Tony Hale, and Hannibal Buress
How did it come to this? Are we so desperate that we allowed a movie to be made from a phone app game? Video game movies rarely, if ever, work but this one actually could have as evidenced by the amusing Angry Birds Toons that are available on several platforms. The trick to those is that the characters don’t talk and they’re only about 3 minutes a piece. The feature however is 97 minutes that feels like 1,000 years with bad, often tasteless jokes, a story that (when present) goes nowhere and characters so one-note you’d think the movie was based off a game designed for your phone that wasn’t supposed to have a feature-length movie made from it…
The ‘story’ is that Red (Jason Sudeikis) lives on an island with other birds who all think that their island is the only place in the entire world. They are protected (from what, it’s not made clear because what could endanger them if they’re alone in the world?) by The Mighty Eagle, who hasn’t been seen in many years and who most birds don’t even believe exists. Everyone on the island is happy except Red who is, you guessed it, angry. After a series of incidents, he is ordered to anger management by Judge Peckinpah (Keegan-Michael Key). There he meets Chuck (Josh Gad), Bomb (Danny McBride), Terrance (Sean Penn!) and the facilitator Matilda (Maya Rudolph). Now, if everyone is happy, why is there an anger management group with several members? Who knows? Who cares?
Red reluctantly makes friends with Chuck and Bomb and they start to spend time together. Then the Pigs come, led by Leonard (Bill Hader). They are welcomed by everyone but Red, who thinks the pigs are up to no good. He, Chuck and Bomb discover that there are lots of pigs in the boat when Leonard stated it was just he and his assistant Ross (Tony Hale). No one cares until the pigs steal all the eggs from the island and the birds go after them using the slingshot that was gifted to them by the pigs (?) after Red, Chuck and Bomb locate and get no help from The Mighty Eagle (Peter Dinklage).
The problems with the film start with the script by Jon Vitti. A veteran TV writer, whose credits include SNL, The Simpsons, King of the Hill, The Critic, and The Office and The Simpsons Movie. His credits also include the features Alvin and the Chipmunks and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeekquel, which is where things probably started to fall off the rails. Vitti seems to write to his idea of the lowest common denominator, which is lower than almost any kid and proceeds to create a film of ostensibly wheel-house phrases and one-liners that he feels pass for jokes. He also creates no shading for his characters, who are defined by single virtues and nothing more then has those one-note characters languish through an hour of repetitive scenes before the third act finally has the pigs stealing the eggs and the birds getting angry and going after them. There is no structure to speak of, very little story and a sum total of zero jokes that work beyond a chuckle if they get that much (and really only a few got any laughs at all from the audience). Add to that the steady stream of references to R-rated films in a desperate attempt to get the parents to laugh (few did) and some literal toilet humor when The Mighty Eagle urinates for a prolonged period of time (at least a minute) while Red, Chuck and Bomb react (Chuck and Bomb had just been swimming and drinking from the lake The Mighty Eagle was now eliminating into). This kind of base humor is something that doesn’t belong in a kids movie, or any movie really.
Directors Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly, both animators and story board artists making their feature debuts, oversaw some decent animation, but apparently did nothing to boost the story or the pacing of this leaden film. They coaxed barely engaged performances from their all-star cast (most of whom do not have memorable speaking roles so their fees were completely unjustified, like Sean Penn simply grunting through the film) and really don’t seem to care about the film at all. The do nothing inventive with the form, nothing to tighten the story or speed things along and succeeded in not making anything suspenseful or particularly memorable. Neither one seems to have taken anything from their time on the animation line or storyboarding, jobs that should have at least instilled them with the notion of how to at least make their film compelling or not be repetitive and their notion to actually show The Mighty Eagle’s stream of urine while he peed into the lake was actually repulsive. If a director chooses to show a character urinating in an R-rated film that is intended for adults and is going for some kind of realism, fine, but to show it in a movie aimed at kids is horrible.
The one and only bright spot in the film is that it looks pretty good. Not good enough to forget how unengaging the story or the characters are, but still pretty good. A lot of talented people put a lot of work into this crap-heap and they deserve to be recognized for their effort, even if the end result was not worth that effort.
With any luck, Angry Birds will spend a couple of weeks in theaters and then disappear from the memories of all who saw it and no one will ever have to endure it again. This is the kind of animated feature that we used to be subjected to before Pixar and Dreamworks really hit their strides and they’ve largely disappeared, but every once in a while, we get something like Angry Birds that insults its audience by being so dumb it pains the audience. This is a poor excuse for a film by any standard and will hopefully nip any more app-based movies in the bud.