[Screen It]


(2016) (voices of Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad) (PG)

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Computer-Animated Comedy: An angry bird must contend with no one seeing the same danger when lots of pigs arrive on their bird island.
On an island of flightless birds, Red (JASON SUDEIKIS) is the outcast, due not only to being a sarcastic sourpuss, but also because of his anger issues that have resulted in him living in a house on the beach by himself, far from everyone else. When his anger gets the best of him yet again, Judge Peckinpah (KEEGAN-MICHAEL KEY) orders that he attend anger management classes taught by Matilda (MAYA RUDOLPH). Joining him is the fast-talking and fast-moving Chuck (JOSH GAD); Bomb (DANNY McBRIDE) who literally explodes if pushed too far; and the hulking Terence (SEAN PENN) who does little more than growl and appear menacing.

Their classes are interrupted by the arrival of a ship of pigs led by Leonard (BILL HADER). Red is pretty sure they're up to no good, but Judge Peckinpah and the rest welcome the visitors who go to great lengths to feed and entertain them. But when Red, Chuck and Bomb discover the pigs' ship filled with even more pigs and lots of TNT, they decide they must seek out the legendary protector of their lands, Mighty Eagle (PETER DINKLAGE), for help, despite that bird having not been seen for years.

When that doesn't play out as they expected, they must come up with another plan, especially when the pigs steal all of the birds' eggs and set sail for a return trip to their own island.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
If you only look at this year's U.S. presidential race, you'd swear that everyone is angry. The candidates are angry at each other, Washington, D.C. in general, and reporters who ask tough questions. The electorate, meanwhile, is angry with anyone who favors someone on the other side of the aisle. While Peter Finch might have yelled "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore" forty years ago in "Network," it would seem to be more applicable today and infecting more people than ever before.

All of which could explain the popularity of the game app "Angry Birds" that took the world by storm after being released in late 2009, spawned all sorts of related merchandise and even an animated TV series available via a few outlets. And since Hollywood will focus on whatever's hot at the moment and then -- due to the time required to make a film, especially a computer-animated one -- take years to try to strike while the iron is still hot, we now have "The Angry Birds Movie."

To be completely transparent, I've never played the game or even seen it in action. Even so, I'm guessing that beyond containing birds who happen to be angry, there isn't a great deal of plot to be found in said game. Accordingly, screenwriter Jon Vitti was tasked with creating a storyline featuring the familiar characters, and now directors Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly have brought that to the big screen.

If anything, the film is pretty to look at, and I'm guessing younger kids will enjoy the action, shenanigans, kid-based gross-out material, slapstick moments and the obligatory injury to a male character's crotch. For everyone else, however, aside from a few jokes and some puns related to birds and the eventual invading pig population, this is a pretty lame exercise that feels more like a (delayed) cash grab rather than something that can stand on its own.

The plot is fairly simple. We have our protagonist Red who, in another time, would have been voiced by the vitriolic Sam Kinison, but instead gets Jason Sudeikis to voice his perturbed and irritated mindset. Due to that, he's an outcast on his bird island, and due to an outburst of angry violence, he's been ordered by the local judge (voice of Keegan-Michael Key) to take anger management classes conducted by one of the film's few female characters (voiced by Maya Rudolph).

There, he's joined by other students ranging from speed-talking Chuck (Josh Gad, the go-to guy now for animated sidekick characters), to the literally explosive Boom (Danny McBride) and the barely verbal Terence (apparently voiced by Sean Penn but you'd never know it). There are some brief, related shenanigans with that, followed by an invasion of pigs led by the bearded Leonard (Bill Hader).

They say they come in peace, and everyone believes them except for Red who doesn't quite go into Chicken Little mode, but tries his best to alert the others about the error of their ways. They ignore him, however, and end up having all of their eggs stolen. That might have been humorous if not for the fact that those eggs are treated as incubators for baby birds ready to hatch at any moment. Thus, beyond the kidnapping, there's the fact that the pigs are going to cook and eat said little ones, something that permeates the flick with an icky vibe.

Yet, the filmmakers don't get that or don't care and thus proceed with the birds having to slingshot themselves onto Pig Island (thus recreating some parts of the game, as far as I can tell), all while the birds legendary protector (voiced by Peter Dinklage) finally gets his lazy eagle behind in gear and tries to save the day.

But it's anger that's really the savior, as the battle cry Red calls out for his makeshift army is "I need some angry flocking birds." While I suppose that's appropriate consider the film's title, it's sort of a weird message to send out to kids. As is some of the film's humor that will likely go over the heads of the little one, but is obviously present to appease whatever adults might be in tow. That same tactic applies to the bevy of old, baby boomer songs that have found their way onto the soundtrack for the same reason.

That only seems like some sort of safe bet pandering, and if all involved knew they had a good enough, standalone project, I doubt we would have seen or heard either sort of material. Granted, that alone doesn't sink the project as plenty of other films have done the same (including the "Shrek" films), but it's joint another point of contention in a pic that really didn't need to be made, except for the money.

Am I irked about that? Nah, it's been going on for too long in Hollywood to be shocking anymore. But I wonder how many parents will end up perturbed when their youngins are suddenly emboldened to be angry tykes? Perhaps with a better plot and script, this could have been this year's "The LEGO Movie." As it stands, "The Angry Birds Movie" rates as a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed May 14, 2016 / Posted May 20, 2016

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