Director: Clay Kaytis & Fergal Reilly
Writers: Jon Vitti
Stars: Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader, Peter Dinklage, Sean Penn, Keegan-Michael Key, Kate McKinnon, Tony Hale, Hannibal Burress, Ike Barinholtz
Genre: Animation; Comedy; Action/Adventure
Rating: PG (for Rude Humor & Action)
At this point, almost everyone with a smartphone, iPod Touch, or tablet has played Angry Birds. If I could distill the experience of the games to someone unfamiliar with it (and again, who could that be?), it would probably sound like this: Pigs are holed up in structures, guarding eggs, and turn by turn, you, the player, fling birds at them, each with different abilities, to try and clear them all out.
Sure, there have been a few tweaks to the formula over time and some combined licensing with Star Wars and Transformers to keep things different, but that gameplay setup and story has largely remained untouched. Few mobile games have blown up like the series has, and none, in my mind, have attempted and succeeded in making the switch to merchandising as it has. The next step was inevitably a feature film, and here we are in 2016 with it today. Was the movie ever needed? Most definitely not. Is it anticipated? Yes, by some. Is it worth your time? Read on if you considered watching, but I’ll tell you the gist: no, it is most definitely not.
Violence/Scary Images: Scary images, not really, but the core mechanic of the games was always destruction. You knew there would be violence, but nothing deadly. (SPOILER ALERT: No one dies. Sequel is planned…already.)
Language/Crude Humor: One character only says “Oh my G-D!” the entire film. More alarming to me is the film’s insistence on saying curse words without saying them. I never thought I’d hear a variation of FML in a children’s movie, but here we are with “Pluck My Life“, as well as “flocking” used as an expletive. There were several other instances, but as you’ll see, what’s the point in listing them all?
Spiritual Content: Spirituality doesn’t seem to have been an issue for the Birds in the movie, but I did see sin in various forms, running amok with, oftentimes, no change in the characters in any redeeming way. Our main characters say snide, hurtful things, and openly lie to one another, and the audience is expected to accept it and laugh. The Pigs in the film are, of course, the villains, so we see their greed and manipulations to be evil, but don’t expect a lesson in this film. You bought a ticket; who needs a lesson?
Sexual Content: Several instances of completely inappropriate garbage placed in a movie that’s made for children. Case in point: when the eggs go missing, one of the main characters tells the female characters this (and I wish I was joking): “Let’s start replacing those kids. Ladies, get busy! We gonna be laying some eggs tonight!”
Drug/Alcohol Reference: None of note, but it makes up for their lack in other ways.
Other Negative Content: Several things, but a couple came to mind writing this: reliance on potty humor and the literal drinking of urine for the biggest laugh, and a copy of “Fifty Shades of Green” in the background on the Pig’s ship. I hope I’m not coming off as a prude, because I’m not, but are either of those supposed to be funny or clever? Kids will laugh at some things, but as an adult, I sat wincing through most of the film, thinking “This is what a movie made for kids is now?” I actually left angry, because I know that some kids will eat it up, as a reinforcement of bad behavior.
Positive Content: I don’t think I missed something here. The characters aren’t any different in the end, except now the Birds let Red live in town and not just outside of it. Our main characters never learn anything from their negative behavior. I know there is a time for spiritual anger (I believe it to be Scriptural, as Jesus exhibited it); still, none of that is on display. We have unnecessary displays in the beginning, and surely, it will be on display in the almost guaranteed sequel.
I won’t be any longer than I need to be here, so I won’t go into the plot. I know many talented people were involved in the making of this movie, many doing their small part to try and make a great whole of a movie. It’s one of the reasons I listed the cast longer than I normally would. I want some of those names to sink in. If you put that cast together, you should get comedy gold.
This isn’t that.
This isn’t even anywhere near close to that. It’s one of the worst theatrical movies I’ve ever seen in my life. The reason it’s so bad, aside from the numerous instances of inappropriate behaviors and phrases laced throughout, is that you can tell that the makers and cast think they’re making something good. They think they’re taking a product, which this film has always been, and they are somehow going to make a classic with what’s being shown. Sean Penn is in this…SEAN PENN!!! The entire time, I thought his character, which consists of nothing but constant growl sounds, was being played by Idris Elba, so you did good, Sean, in fooling me. He isn’t the only one trying though. Nobody is just phoning it in, but the premise I listed earlier is the core of any Angry Birds game.
There isn’t enough there to justify a movie, yet here we are because MONEY! The one triumph of the movie is its visual polish, and my score won’t fault it there. This is a very well animated movie, but that’s it. The finale sequence translated the game well, and I imagine the 3D experience would be exciting for those few minutes. We almost saw the film in the largest 3D format option available at the theater due to its timing in the day, but we refused it when we saw it was almost $40. Had my wife went through with that purchase, I can’t tell you how disappointed we would have been with ourselves to have spent that much on this.
Watching it and thinking about how I could possibly be gracious in a review for this site, my mind went back to the center of the Angry Birds experience: the slingshot, and its elastic nature. Throughout the film, we see birds being pulled way back and stretching it tight, before being flung far off. This whole project and movie-going experience was stretched. Its release now is stretched beyond the relevance of “the moment” the franchise captured a few years ago.
The cast is stretched in doing their very best to deliver just awful material (which I can’t fault them for trying, but I can for agreeing to do it). The concept is stretched so thin that we trudge through anger management sessions; Piggy-hosted raves with country star, Blake Shelton, singing; odd gags referencing everything from The Shining to Daft Punk; and every Bird or Pig pun, spoken or visual, you never wanted to imagine (I hope Kevin Bacon and Jon Hamm were paid for the uses of their names, because puns). The audience is stretched in being expected to sit through it all, which, by the way, many in my theater walked out; my family and I didn’t, just so I could deliver this review of warning to you all.
I don’t want to stretch you out any further or your time or wallet. Believe me when I say that I do my best to extend grace to others in my life. I don’t purposefully put people down, because I know that words can hurt. Still, I share that, because this film is just plain awful. I don’t want to take up anymore of your time, so I end this now.
Angry Birds was and is a fun game; I get it. I don’t play it anymore, but many people do. Toys and merchandise for games isn’t necessarily a bad thing. My daughter has a poster of the game up in her room to this day. Kids all over, maybe even your kids, will be anticipating it, and I get it. Still, the fans of the game, whatever the age, deserved better than they got here with this movie, but better yet: it shouldn’t have been a movie at all.
Yet, here we are with one released strictly as a commodity ready for mass consumption. Please, don’t waste your time and money. Let it be a lesson to Hollywood that quality counts, and just because it’s a colorful cartoon doesn’t mean we’ll let them put anything out just to make a buck, regardless of the messages it sends.
The Bottom Line