Flock This

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Remember how in my Suicide Squad review, I was talking about how it felt like every song in existence appears in its soundtrack. The Angry Birds Movie definitely holds that claim up to scrutiny and it even has at least one overlap in the form of Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” (hell, I might want to suspect they both appear within the first ten minutes of both movies). It is one of several forced pop culture references that comes out of nowhere in context, from a Shining parody to a Coexist sticker. Like, what the hell with that last one?

So, I wonder if I am somewhat blessed in my cave residence that I barely regarded the huge sensation The Angry Birds game by the Rovio company from the early turn of this decade. I think I played it once and found it kind of fun, but I wasn’t writing home about it – come to think of it, I only got my first smartphone AFTER this hype – and I’ve been accustomed enough to deflecting mainstream culture that everything Angry Birds went right over my head. For this reason, the existence of an Angry Birds Movie is a complete shock to me, a rude awakening that I am forced to confront with my own eyes. I mean, I know people mentioned it in passing to me and I saw ads and stuff, but I wasn’t really paying attention to what was happening until I sat in the theater realizing “Oh my god, this movie made number one at the box office” waiting for the movie to begin, too late to change my path. This is the reason I also can’t bring myself to say “who is this movie made for?” since I can’t trust myself not to realize that maybe a cell phone game still has its hype. Besides, we all know how time-consuming animation work takes, especially coming from the green animation wing of Rovio (with help from Sony Imageworks) and if there’s anything worthwhile at least about The Angry Birds Movie, it is the animation. It sure as hell has nothing else going for it.

Anyway, so let’s hit this head-on from the slingshot…

Oh God, this shit hurts, I haven’t even started on the plot, but it means acknowledging the hoops jumped to a climax of birds slingshoting themselves Kamikaze-style against green pigs. But anyway…

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The Angry Birds Movie, as drafted in a book of flesh with blood for ink by screenwriter Jon Vitti (story credits to Mikael Hed, Mikko Polla, and John Cohen), establishes a genial community of birds on an island called Bird Island. And everybody on the island seems to have a good attitude about things except for Red  (Jason Sudeikis), a triangular red bird whose face is kept in a permanent scowl thanks to his solid block eyebrows. Which makes me wonder if this character is designed after me and I just never noticed. In any case, I would not be mistaken for a birthday clown, the job the ill-suited Red takes up that almost immediately gets him into trouble when he can’t suppress his wrath for an unpleasant client. Red’s dismissive attitude towards everything Bird Island holds dear lands him in an anger management class with the rapid yellow speedster Chuck  (Josh Gad, and man, no other actor has quickly turned for me from amusing in The Book of Mormon and Frozen to insufferable in Pixels and this), the explosive black Bomb  (Danny McBride), and the mostly quiet and huge and looking-angrier-than-even-Red Terence  (Oh no, Sean Penn, what happened man?).

Already there’s a huge problem for me with The Angry Birds Movie within its first 30 minutes. Like Red, I recognize that community he lives in is absolutely intolerable because Bird Island maindates more sycophantic happiness than Disneyland’s employee policy. So I’m obviously close to identifying with his annoyance and exasperation. But then there’s also the fact that Red is absolutely dislikable as a protagonist. The film’s unwillingness to let the animation have Red’s expressions give away his thoughts means Red never shuts the fuck and given the extremely anonymous voice of Sudeikis just makes Red a bird who likes the sound of his own superiority and I don’t feel that’s much better than asphyxiating cheerfulness.

It doesn’t help that obviously the premise sets itself up for Red to learn a lesson about how not to continuously rely on his anger (and even hammers one a line of “anger is not the answer to everything”), but then the pigs show up in a giant ship that demolishes Red’s home. At first, the pig leader Leonard (Bill Hader) introduces himself as benevolent but even after Red exposes lie after lie from Leonard, starting with the fact that Leonard has his entire pig family following him, Bird Island is painstakingly ignorant to the sinister intentions of the pigs and somehow surprised when they steal all of their eggs to eat.

In order to rescue those eggs in time, Red attempts to enlist his childhood hero, the legend Mighty Eagle (Peter Dinklage) but when it is clear that Eagle has lost the will to rise up to heroics again like he was once known for.

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Y’all get how convoluted this is, right? And how it’s obviously going to end in a sort of muddled message when Red trains the entire Bird community to use their anger as a way to defeat the pigs and save their eggs. It’s probably classless to go and criticize The Angry Birds Movie for not being more than just a hell of a lot of twisted circumstances that lead to slingshotted birds at pig establishments, but there I am doing it when it swears it wants a character arc for Red at the very least but it leaps from his anger being terrible and ostracizing himself from the community to it being good to suddenly he’s a happier guy.

And keep in mind, I’m only distracting myself with the contrivances of its plot to steer from having to talk about the nonexistent effort in voice casting by the likes of Keegan-Michael Key, Maya Rudolph, and Kate McKinnon, the terrible sense of humor (even ignoring the unnecessary pop culture overglut, the movie is filled with the crudest of snot jokes and barely veiled sex jokes to augment parental regret), and the pop music. But if I was looking for a kind word, it’s this – the movie’s animation is impressive for a first-time company. It matches the aesthetic of the video game and adapts it into 3D depth while playing with primary colors to pop out the vibrant variety of its bird character designs – even when characters like Bomb and Terrence seem to just revolve around “big” and “round” as visuals. The pigs are all the same sickly shade of green, but that just obviously gives them a more menacing and nasty look, so good job for color coding your villains, directors Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly. Your literacy in visuals does not exactly make up for your poor storytelling, but it’s something.

That’s it. That’s the most I can spare to praise the movie and I don’t feel like hurting my brain trying to look for reasons not to regret watching it. Oh well, I guess it did what it came for, but what it came to do isn’t much.

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