Starring: Jason Sudeikis (Horrible Bosses), Josh Gad (Frozen), Danny McBride (Pineapple Express), Bill Hader (The Skeleton Twins), Maya Rudolph (Bridesmaids), Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), Sean Penn (Milk)
Directors: Clay Kaytis & Fergal Reilly
Writer: Jon Vitti (The Simpsons Movie)
Runtime: 1 hour 37 minutes
Release Date: 13 May (UK), 20 May (US)
Of all the video games to adapt into a movie, Angry Birds doesn’t exactly seem like an obvious candidate. So many games have grand stories and vast worlds that would be incredible to explore in a cinematic fashion. Angry Birds is just a fun distraction to fiddle with whilst sitting on the bus. The timing is also against the film’s favour, with the game’s popularity having waned in recent years and now relying on spin-offs with Star Wars and Transformers to stay afloat, but that’s not entirely the film’s fault. Creating an animated film can take a long time and, in the amount of time it has taken for The Angry Birds Movie to be realised, trends have moved on. But with that amount of time, the filmmakers have spent it wisely by crafting a quality product rather than rushing out a quick cash-grab.
From a story level, The Angry Birds Movie fleshes out the barebones premise of the game into a fairly standard kids’ movie story. You’ve got the outcast nobody likes who discovers something bad is going to happen but nobody believes him because they don’t like him, and then the outcast and all those who hate him have to make up and set aside their differences against the now obvious threat. Sound at all familiar? There is rarely a story beat that is unpredictable and the structure is tight if a bit bland, but built on top of that basic foundation the filmmakers have added a lot of strong humour. The film isn’t so much trying to be like Disney or Pixar, instead opting for more of a zany Looney Tunes-esque tone that relies far more on comedy than story. Yes, the jokes mostly rely on puns and pop culture references, but there’s also a lot of great sight gags, exaggerated visual comedy in the Wile E. Coyote vain, and even some subdued innuendo for the adults. Not every joke sticks, but they land consistently enough to keep you engaged and none are groan-worthy enough to ruin it. If you’re expecting an animated film that’s going to move forward the genre, you’ll be disappointed. But if you’re just expecting to be entertained for an hour and half, The Angry Birds Movie does that admirably enough.
Like many animated films, The Angry Birds Movie has assembled an all-star cast to voice its many characters; so many, in fact, that you’ll certainly be reading the credits going “Wait, they hired that guy to just do that?” Jason Sudeikis makes a decent protagonist as Red, and it’s great to see the outcast character like this be disliked for actually being an asshole rather than just being different or misunderstood, but he never quite sells the “angry” part of the title. He certainly has a lot of apathy and pessimism, but Sudeikis ultimately feels like he’s fighting against the script in order to make himself more funny and likable; he’s just too nice a guy for the character. Josh Gad and Danny McBride are solid supporting characters as the speed demon Chuck and explosive Bomb, with Gad’s character in particular pushing the boundaries of family entertainment with some suggestive humour about his, ahem, preferences; I’m surprised they could get away with as much as they do and still get a U rating. Bill Hader is thoroughly entertaining as the villainous pig Leonard, Peter Dinklage steals the show whenever on screen as the pompous Mighty Eagle, and the fact they hired Sean Penn to voice a character who communicates entirely in grunts is a joke that never gets old.
There’s not a lot of initial material to work with from such a simple mobile game, but the filmmakers have used every bit of it in constructing the film version. From a visual perspective it looks exactly like the source material but embellished and given dimension. All of the birds look like they do in the game and have all the same abilities, the architecture of the pigs’ world is just as rickety and haphazard, and even the game’s music is woven into the film’s score in a subtle but noticeable way. The animation is top notch with lots of great detail with the texture work whilst simultaneously remaining very cartoony, but it’s the way it’s used to enhance the comedy that ultimately makes the movie work. In a similar vein to Hotel Transylvania, the film translates a lot of the timing and movement of 2D animation into a 3D environment, making for visual humour that is fast and funny in all of the right ways. All of these great elements come together brilliantly in the film’s third act that literally becomes a fully-realised version of the video game, combining gorgeous animation with wicked-sharp humour to create a thoroughly diverting finale.
I don’t know how long it’ll hold the title considering both Warcraft and Assassin’s Creed are on the horizon, but The Angry Birds Movie is easily the best video game movie to date. The competition isn’t exactly that hard to beat, but it’s an accomplishment nonetheless especially given the barebones nature of the source material. It’s simplistic to a fault and the humour is only slightly racier than a typical Saturday morning cartoon, but it does all of those things with effort and conviction. It is clear Rovio didn’t want to make something just to for the money; if they did, they’d have rushed something out years ago. They wanted this to be a quality film and the time spent has paid off in spades. Whether anyone exactly cares enough to stop playing on their phones and get to the cinema to watch it may be a different story.
FINAL VERDICT: 7/10