When it was first announced that Sony was developing a movie based on the Angry Birds video game, there was one question that came to the minds of many: How?
We live in an age where nearly anything marketable can be given a movie treatment. That may seem frightening and disheartening to the future of cinema, but keep in mind that any movie idea can be entertaining if executed with creativity. Pictures such as Pirates of the Caribbean have proven that even a property as out there as a theme park ride can make for a good movie. The Angry Birds Movie is sadly an example where the term cash-grab comes to mind throughout.
I recall the first trailer for The Angry Birds Movie generating some hope and enthusiasm as many remarked at how there was actually a story here. And, yes, there is a story with characters to this picture. It’s not a good story, but I guess it was supposed to be impressive that any type of story can be applied to such a non-narrative video game.
To be fair, however, the movie does start out very promising if not wholly original. Red (Jason Sudeikis) is a bitter bird that finds himself sarcastically drudging his way through everyday life on Bird Island. While all the other birds seem content and happy in their splendor of continuing their glowing society, Red is annoyed by all this joy. His rage eventually reaches a boiling point and he’s forced to join an anger management program. It is there that he meets the other angry birds of the community.
While in this group, Red meets other birds with similar issues of rage. There’s the highly-caffeinated Chuck (Josh Gad), the literally short-fused Bomb (Danny McBride) and the quietly fuming giant Terrance (Sean Penn). They all seem to have their quirks, but most appear to be mischief-makers that stand as outsiders of their community. While others have settled down with families, these birds still grapple with themselves and their anger.
Despite some less-than-amusing bird puns, this first act of establishing our characters was rather clever. I was starting to enjoy myself and ready myself to recommend The Angry Birds Movie.
But when the second act arrives, the movie suddenly remembers that it’s based on a video game. As such, the creative team and producers felt the need to have the movie reflect the game’s mechanics of birds launching themselves at pigs. To reach this point, the movie introduces the green-colored pigs as explorers from Piggy Island that arrives on Bird Island to share their technology.
Led by their fat bearded leader (Bill Hader), the pigs introduce the birds to the wonders of trampolines and musical dance numbers. But Red and the other angry birds discover the pigs’ evil plan to snatch all the birds’ eggs to eat for breakfast. It’s up to Red to inspire all of Bird Island to rise up and fight against the pigs not as happy birds, but angry birds. And, yes, that exact line is spoken in the movie.
By the time we reach the third act, the movie is on autopilot. Musical numbers of random genres breakout to fill some time and give the movie something to do. Gags go for the lowest hanging fruit of extending sequences for annoying voices, farting and urination (I started to miss the bird puns by this point in the movie). And what is the grand scheme of the birds for rescuing their eggs from the evil pigs? They use a giant slingshot to launch themselves at the architecture of the pigs. There is no reason given as to why this is the best plan of attack. It just has to happen because that’s what you do in the video game.
Now what do I know of the video game Angry Birds? I played it once, thought it was cute as yet another demolition game and dropped it. Since the game’s inception, however, it has exploded into a runaway franchise of sequels, spin-offs, board games and an animated series. Was there some sort of lore or character established with this premise in the multitude of media it has spawned that might make me appreciate this movie more? If the movie’s script is anything to go by, I haven’t missed much. I think I’m safe from the whole “you’re not a gamer” argument for slandering such a picture.
The overly simplistic nature of the plot has led to many critics forming their own theories about terrifying messages in this non-message movie. Some have cited how the plight of the angry birds in this society relates to the struggle of manchildren not being able to grow up or form relationships. Others have likened the story and imagery to the immigration struggle in Germany.
But let’s not bestow such lofty analysis on such a commercial movie – leave that for the endless fan theories and inevitable slew of overanalyzing Cracked videos. It was made to sell more merchandise, acting as merchandise itself. This should be evident by the massive $300 million Sony spent on the advertising campaign, being one of their largest for an animated movie.
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