Red (Jason Sudeikis) is a bird with anger management issues. But when his island is visited by a fleet of mysterious green pigs, Red must hone his anger to help rescue a batch of stolen eggs.
The Lego Movie proved that you could turn a potentially cynical cash-grab into something with depth, humour, and genuine craft. The Angry Birds Movie, on the other hand, proves that sometimes it’s easier just to make a cynical cash-grab.
Addictive though it may be, the original Angry Birds mobile app hardly screamed with cinematic potential. There is no obviously compelling story bursting to escape from a cartoon bird being catapulted into a green pig. Almost inevitably, then, the transition from phone screen to cinema screen feels retrofitted and clumsy throughout.
The story feels driven by marketing, rather than character.
For starters, our Angry Birds aren’t really all that angry. Most of them are actually pretty chirpy. It’s only our protagonist Red (Sudeikis, on decent form but miscast) who has much of a temper, and even then, he’s fairly tame. You get the sense that they intended for a sort of feathered Curb Your Enthusiasm route, but it all got heavily sanitised along the way.
Occasionally, the film makes light of the strange parameters set by the game. (“I literally blow up", admits a character inventively named Bomb.) But even in this wacky universe, it makes no sense that these birds would willingly fling themselves, kamikaze style, into the paths of the villainous pigs, instead of using, say, rocks. The story feels driven by marketing, rather than character.
Of course, internal logic matters not to the preschool target audience, who will lap up the cute animation (the pigs have more than a whiff of Minions about them) and slapstick comedy. Never mind that the game’s audience was mostly grown-ups: this is emphatically a kid’s movie.
Given the roster of SNL comedians on the cast list (plus, improbably, Sean Penn) you might have hoped for a bit of comedic edge – but it’s cornier than birdseed, approaching Dad Joke territory. "I'm retired,” offers one character. “...Mostly just tired!” With lines like that, it’s hard not to be cynical.
For recently-hatched members of the nest, it’s a bright and colourful distraction. For the rest of us, it’s about as entertaining as avian flu.