‘The Angry Birds Movie’
Directors: Clay Kaytis, Fergal Reilly
Voices of: Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad
2 (out of 5) Globes
A fun, madly chaotic movie (Tim Burton’s “Mars Attacks!”) has been made from a series of old trading cards — why can’t the same happen to the world’s most downloaded app? The bar is set perilously low for “Angry Birds,” a film based on a game about an adorbs suicide squad, and it could get a pass for doing not one or two but three, maybe four better. It’s easy to be bewitched by the mere sight of a brightly colored cartoon with jokes crammed into every corner. Still, those gags. The humor tends to be groaning aviary or porcine puns, like a store named “Calvin Swine,” a poster for Kevin Bacon in “Ham-let” or our lead whining, “Pluck my life”? (You know, for the kids!)
Generically watchable but almost never inspired, “Angry Birds” has so little to it it can’t even be joke-read as a risible if accidental political allegory about the fear of immigrants. To wit: “Angry Birds” hatches an elaborate origin story about a peaceful, suburbanized island of flightless creatures who are one day greeted by green pig foreigners. Their leader (voiced by Bill Hader) bewitches the denizens with his refined graces and cool gifts. But only a batch of birds with diagnosed anger management issues — chief among them perpetual grumbler Red (Jason Sudeikis) — know their real angle: to blow up their land and make off with their eggs. At one point a Trumpian border wall makes an appearance.
This is divining far, far more out of a film with no agenda, and no deeper thought than getting, very eventually, to the main attraction: birds catapulted into structures and dynamite boxes and easily-popped nemeses. (Though this being a nice movie, no one dies or even bursts into nothingness.) The climax has its share of kinetic destruction, though the massacre is strangely short-lived and it takes so long to get there the film could even be mistaken for any rando off-brand toon.
Along the way “Angry Birds” almost loses its identity: It was born as an addictive time-killer so simple that attempts to movie-ize it have long been treated as a joke. (There once was a YouTube video about “Michael Bay’s Angry Birds.”) Instead the filmmakers fall back on the Pixar/Disney model: handsome production values, stealth yuks for adults accompanying their children, well-paid familiar voices. The latter includes Josh Gad as hyperactive yellow speedfreak Chuck and — oh, why not? — Sean Penn as a giant lump of humorlessness named Terence.
Is that a joke at Penn’s expense? Probably not, because the laughs here tend to involve pop culture references, the best of which — and it’s not even very good — involves a gold record for “Hotel California.” (By The Eagles. Eagles are birds. Get it?) Eventually a movie that tried to coast by on being better than it ever had to be is just some sorry movie based on an app.