Does anyone still care about the Angry Birds? Sure, the game is still a solid seller in the iTunes App Store, but it feels like its moment of cultural dominance subsided at least a few years ago. Since it takes some time to produce a theatrical-quality animated feature film, though, 2016 is when we get The Angry Birds Movie. Considering the basic nature of playing an Angry Birds game, though, it shouldn’t be surprising that The Angry Birds Movie struggles to fill its brief running time with anything worthwhile.
Red (Jason Sudeikis) is a rarity on his island of flightless birds – rather than living happily and peacefully, he’s cynical and rude. When one of his outbursts gets him sentenced to anger management classes, he’s forced to deal with other birds who also threaten to disturb the island’s peace – namely Chuck (Josh Gad), a speedy bird, and Bomb (Danny McBride), who…well, you can guess. But when a group of pigs led by Leonard (Bill Hader) arrive on the island, claiming to come in peace, Red’s skepticism about their motives ends up proving right.
Here’s the thing: the basic motivation for Red isn’t really a departure from the game. Anyone who’s played an Angry Birds game knows that the birds fight the pigs, who (spoiler, I guess?) steal the birds’ eggs. But if video games have proven anything, it’s that we don’t need elaborate backstories for certain aspects of games. We can just accept that birds and pigs are enemies, just like we can accept Sonic’s need for golden rings or Mario’s decidedly non-plumbing activities.
In trying to establish a reason for why birds and pigs fight, The Angry Birds Movie banks on the fact that the audience will obviously root for the birds, which ultimately endorses Red’s cynicism about the pigs. There’s not a lot of depth or nuance given to the fact that Red’s right in this case, either. He’s just…right. Now take that sort of logic and see if it resembles anything being uttered by a red-haired presidential candidate, and believed by the voters who made him a party’s nominee.
But this is a kids’ movie, right? Well, quite frankly, I’m not sure who this film will appeal to, because the lame jokes that the film offers like to rely on some bird-related adult puns, like “Get flocking angry” or “Pluck my life,” while offering some gross-out humor that usually signifies a lack of effort in coming up with something that will make kids laugh.
Sure, The Angry Birds Movie is tied to a game that’s no longer part of the zeitgeist. Similar disconnects happen all the time in Hollywood. That’s not an excuse for a poorly-written film with questionable (at best) messages. It’s a mind-numbing experience that becomes more infuriating with time and any semblance of thought.