Sometimes an animated film comes along that blows away your expectations and sets new landmarks in animation. The Angry Birds Movie is not such a film, but it’s still pretty darn entertaining. Come on, did anyone honestly expect a movie based on a smartphone game to be some kind of existential masterpiece? This is certainly a case of “it is what it is,” but in a good way.
The film centers around a bird named Red (played by Jason Sudeikis). In a village that values happiness and optimism, Red’s anger issues pretty much make him an outcast. When an army of pigs arrive on the island, Red must convince his fellow avians that something is not right. The village doesn’t believe him at first, but when the pigs steal their eggs and blow up their houses, he must lead the birds in a furious battle to get their eggs back.
While the plot of a social outcast saving the day is pretty simple on the surface, this film still mostly manages to feel fresh and exciting throughout. In many other movies, the social outcast is a kind-hearted hero living in a town of mean-spirited jerks. In this film’s case, Red is a hot-headed hero in a village of chuckling airheads. It’s pretty refreshing, and what’s even better is that Red is still incredibly likable. He’s a snappy and sarcastic character that would fit right into a Merrie Melodies cartoon (Daffy Duck would be proud). Add on a confident vocal performance by Jason Sudeikis and you’ve got an enjoyable main character worthy of leading the film.
As for the rest of the characters, they are just as colorful and fun to watch as Red is, and the cast absolutely nails it in the voice department. Josh Gad plays the zippy and fast-talking Chuck, Danny McBride gives an appropriately gruff voice Bomb, Mya Rudolph perfectly plays the on-edge therapist Matilda, and Bill Hader gives a reliably awesome vocal performance to Leonard the Pig. The cast also features Peter Dinklage as a washed up bald eagle and Sean Penn in perhaps his most unusual role yet: an enormous, surly bird named Terrence whose only lines consist of grunting. Even the extras all have their own unique designs and quirks. Overall, what the characters lack in depth, they make up for in enjoyment and overall creativity. Expect to see parents scrambling to get their kids Angry Birds toys at your local Wal-Mart.
Who could blame kids for wanting this movie’s toy line? The whole film is aesthetically pleasing on an insanely satisfying level. The animation is outstanding, and every frame of this film is bursting to life with the same colorful palate that made the game popular. While the feathers and trees have quite a lot of detail put into them, the animation never feels too hyper-realistic; it is appropriately cartoony to match up perfectly with the film’s giddy tone. The fine folks at Rovio Animation and Sony Imageworks certainly did an outstanding job in the artistic department.
As for the story, it’s nothing to really write home about. It’s the typical “social outcast saves the day” story, and it does lend itself to a boat load of cliches. The characters, while entertaining, are admittedly not very fleshed out either. On the other hand, is anybody really going to walk into a movie based on Angry Birds expecting an intense allegorical study? We think not. While films like Zootopia and Inside Out offer some truly deep characters and investing stories, there’s nothing wrong with a good romp to take the kids to (so long as its enjoyable and not cringe-worthy like Norm of the North).
The film’s tone is the perfect blend of Looney Tunes and Family Guy with its wacky and irreverent humor. It’s got puns, slapstick, irony and plenty of fast-paces one-liners to leave kids laughing in the isle. Of course, this film does appeal mainly to children, so the humor isn’t always mature. Are there pop culture jokes? Yes. Is there toilet humor? Yes. On the contrary, while the humor isn’t always inventive, even the corniest jokes can still warrant a smile in a charming film like this. Even the minute-long piss joke that some critics are riled up about can manage a guilty chuckle based on the characters’ reactions to it.
Whether or not we can recommend this film really depends on how tolerant you are of kids movies. If you have higher standards for family films, sit this one out and stick to Inside Out and Zootopia. However, if you’re looking for a fun-filled adventure with colorful visuals and goofy jokes, then feel free to check this one out. “Lighten up; it’s for kids,” isn’t always an excuse, but this movie has enough artistic creativity and entertainment going for it to forgive its shortcomings. It’s not an amazing animated film, but for a film based on a lightly-plotted game like Angry Birds, it’s about as good as it gets.