Video-game movies seem to be coming in abundance this year. Just a couple of weeks ago, we got Ratchet and Clank, the end of the month will bring us Duncan Jones' Warcraft and Assassin's Creed is set to release in December too. However, we also have The Angry Birds Movie, a colourful animation based on the hit Rovio game, from 2009, and here's my review of it.
7 years ago, Rovio released a simple mobile game in which people used their fingers to fling various colourful birds, each with their own ability, into evil, egg-stealing pigs and it became a hit. So huge in fact that it generated various spin-off games - a couple even set in the Rio and Star Wars franchises - and a whole slew of enjoyable animated shorts. The Angry Birds became huge so it was only a matter of time before they took to the big-screen in their own, solo outing and, now, just over half a decade since the game was popular and relevant, it has arrived. Long-time studio animators Clay Katis and Fergal Reilly - who worked on the likes of Wreck-It Ralph, Tangled, Frozen etc - bring the franchise to the screen, making their directorial debut off a screenplay written by Jon Vitti - the man who brought us the first two Alvin and the Chipmunks films. Now, the main worry surrounding this film was just how does one give such a seemingly simple game a fully realised cinematic narrative. The answer, in the case of The Angry Birds Movie, is you don't.
As was the problem with Alvin and the Chipmunks - also written by Vitti, as already mentioned - or as was the problem with another, recent, animated video-game adaptation, Ratchet and Clank, the films lacked a solid, cohesive and well-realised narrative, let alone one that was well written with good jokes (humour in this film is jokes such as "free rage bird", because that sort of intelligent, witty line is exactly what gets the audience laughing, am I right?). Bird Island - the film isn't one for its creative names as you'll see - is a jolly community inhabited by seemingly peaceful, flightless birds. However, fuzzy red bird, creatively named Red (voiced by Jason Sudeikis) - always deemed a bit of an outcast - has a bit of a temper issue and is sentenced to anger management classes after a clown gig gone wrong. The other ill-tempered birds joining him are yellow-bird Chuck (Josh Gad), the black-bird Bomb (Danny McBride) and giant red-bird Terence (Sean Penn). Although, when a group of pigs - led by Leonard (Bill Hader) - randomly and mysterious dock into Bird Island, the only one questioning their motives is Red. Of course, his wariness is well-founded and he has to lead the birds of Bird Island against the green piggies after they run off, having stolen all the birds' precious eggs.
For a video game so simplistic and addictive, crafting a full-fledged narrative, enough to fill an entire feature-length picture, is not an easy task. Then again, it could be said that the same problem surrounds a set of inanimate toys yet 2014's The Lego Movie was one of the funniest, most surprising and most satisfying animated films of the past few years. The worry was that The Angry Birds Movie is 7 years too late. And it is. Most of the core players of the original game are well past the target audience of this picture - then again, the target audience of this film seems like kids of a very young age, who probably only go to the cinema because of the colourful visuals. Now, if there is one great quality of this film it is that: animation. The animation is unique and stunning and so detailed and the visual colour palette of this film is so abstract and colourful and energetic and it's hard not to appreciate the beautiful technological achievement in animation here - stunning to watch on the big-screen.
Yet, that's really all The Angry Birds Movie has going for it. The animation is colourful and will appeal to younger audiences and it looks nice but the film lacks substance. Most of the jokes feel so poorly-written and just plain dumb and annoying at times and very few actually hit - there is the occasional joke that will make the older audience chuckle a little but they're too few and far between. The writing is very mawkish and the iconic slingshot gimmick from the games feels so shoehorned in and so contrived. The first act of the film is the most enjoyable to watch, the character dynamics are competent, and it feels a little fresh - trying to establish itself from the games - but then the film gets lazier and lazier and more superficial and forceful as it progresses to the point where it just gets tedious and lacklustre and boring to watch. The cast are great but, aside from some development in the first 30 minutes or so for our 3 main characters, all the other characters feel so one-dimensional and bland so it's hard to attach and invest and really root for anyone or anything.
Ultimately, that's where the problem of this animation lies. The visuals are colourful and the first half hour is somewhat decent and will distract the younger audience members (some kids may find some amusement from the abundance of silly visual gags and wackiness - not the good kind mind you) but then the film becomes yet another lazy attempt at a cash-grab and a wasted opportunity to make what could have been - what even promised to be - a pretty fun video game movie. We just don't care for anything going on to the extent that it becomes tedious to watch. The direction is slick and the voice cast is great too but the writing fails this movie and the jokes feel forced and the narrative and character arcs are so poorly, mawkishly written. The film is harmless entertainment but it's also pretty charmless and insignificant. Looks like the world is still sitting with baited breath for the first great video game movie because it's, unfortunately, not this one.
About the Author
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.