I’m not surprised that the smartphone video game app Angry Birds became such a cultural phenomenon (it is, with a thousand-yard stare, that I remember the heyday of Tetris), even as it lurched out into the world of t-shirts and lunchboxes. What is strange to me, however, is that now — a half-decade after its popularity blossomed — someone decided it was time for an Angry Birds movie. Movies entail at least a smidgen of plot and characterization (except for an existential, Bela Tarr-directed Angry Birds, perhaps), and this game is a property that’s never needed that and doesn’t require it.
No one’s playing Angry Birds for the Dostoyevskian themes, and I’m not sure who’s asking for an origin story for a game that’s about (you guessed it) birds who are angry. Yet, here we are, because Americans have spoken for five years now. And they love some pissed-off fowl, enough so that there’s a market for — and a dime to be made from — this film. But that still doesn’t solve the sheer superfluousness of an Angry Birds movie, at least from the point of view of building an origin story and personalities around a video game where the entire premise is shooting exploding birds at things.
Presumably, anything can be made into a good movie with the right talent behind it, but Angry Birds, from its inception, is obviously more concerned about box office than quality. There’s a lot of money dumped into the visual style of the animation, which is honestly welcome since the look of the film is really its highlight (though in this day and age of technology, this is an expectation). The same can’t be said for the material these visuals are built upon. The plot, considering its source material, is serviceable. Red (Jason Sudeikis) is a bird with anger issues, something that causes few to take him seriously. This all changes when Red’s island is pillaged by a boatload of green pigs who quickly dart off. Mad as hell and not taking it anymore, Red and his cohorts decide to follow the pigs to their home and take back what is theirs, simulating the video game to an extent, but with more plot and less interactivity.
Beyond this, the film has a lot of the same problems as other modern animated films, falling backwards into smarminess, slapstick (no surprise in this case, of course) and an unfortunate shrillness that’s expected coming from this particular source material. No, I’m not expecting deep, emotional resonance nor some grand comedic masterpiece here, though some modicum of either would be nice. Even the somewhat recognizable glut of comedians on the voice talent roster does little since they’re slapped onto the film with little chance to do much, making the Angry Birds movie feel as much like a piece of merchandise as one of the aforementioned t-shirts and lunchboxes. Rated PG for rude humor and action.