The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


The Angry Birds Movie

There are tons of movies based on videogames, and even a few based on board games (Battleship and Ouija), so it was probably only a matter of time until we got a movie based on a cell phone game. If you've ever played Angry Birds, you know it's as addictive as it is simple: launch birds with different abilities toward structures built by their pig enemies and topple them. The game has been released in multiple iterations, including versions pertaining to Star Wars, Transformers, and Rio. It's doubtful that anyone who hasn't played the game in some way, shape, or form will respond to The Angry Birds Movie all that much, but if you're hooked on the exploits of these enraged feathered creatures, the film delivers some lightweight fun.

The story takes place on an island inhabited by flightless birds. Red (voiced by Jason Sudeikis) has an anger problem and is court-ordered to attend anger management classes. There, he meets the speedy yellow bird Chuck (Josh Gad), the literally-explosive Bomb (Danny McBride), and the massive, perpetually grunting Terence (Sean Penn). One day, a group of green piggies, led by Leonard (Bill Hader), makes its way to the island. They sweet-talk the birds into thinking they're friendly, then steal all their eggs (i.e. children). Red now has an appropriate outlet for his rage. He leads the charge to destroy Pig Island and bring home all the eggs. Also helping out is Mighty Eagle (Peter Dinklage), the once-great protector of the birds who now spends his days slacking atop a mountain.

The problem with making a film based on this game is that there's no real story. The Angry Birds Movie therefore has to invent one. What it comes up with Red is the only bird suspicious of the pigs' motives until it's too late is no great shakes. The plot is serviceable, although not especially deep. That leaves it up to the jokes to carry things. For the first hour, they're a little hit-or-miss. Some, like the comical riffs on how people with anger problems behave in anger management classes, are funny. So are many of the little background jokes (a "Kevin Bacon in Hamlet" poster hangs in a pig's quarters). Others are just dumb. The movie really could have done without the disgusting pee-drinking joke, for instance. In the final half hour, the story hits its stride, as the birds use a gigantic slingshot to hurl themselves at the pigs' buildings, which come crumbling down. This is the section that's most like the game, and it's consistently inventive and humorous.

Last year, Inside Out delivered the message that it's okay, and maybe even necessary, to have a little sadness in life. The Angry Birds Movie says something similar about anger. The message here is that anger in general can be detrimental, but righteous anger can be useful. Red learns to let go of the petty everyday rage he feels and instead direct it toward correcting an injustice. How much of a message younger viewers will extrapolate from the picture is questionable they'll be having too much fun watching all the mayhem but there's certainly a springboard here for some post-movie discussion about when anger is harmful and when it's helpful.

The animation is good, especially in the magnificently destructive final act. All the voice actors are well-cast, too. (Peter Dinklage is especially hilarious as Mighty Eagle.) Their efforts help the film stay afloat during its thinner moments. The Angry Birds Movie isn't a top-tier animated feature, but it's got enough that works to make for some decent family entertainment. It captures a lot of what's so enjoyable about the mobile app, which is really all it needs to do.

( out of four)

The Angry Birds Movie is rated PG for rude humor and action. The running time is 1 hour and 37 minutes.

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