by Michael B. Hock
I owned the first generation of iPhone. It was a technological marvel: you could surf the web on the touchscreen, it could take pictures, it had a big, beautiful screen unlike anything you’d seen before. Making phone calls was so/so, but who needed that when there was texting? About a year later, Apple announced the App store, and with it came a flood of new games, websites, and whatever. Most of it was great, we used it to waste time standing in line at the bank or riding the Metro to work, or using it as an excuse to not interact with people. It was glorious.
One such game was Angry Birds, a fun little game where you used a slingshot to knock down increasingly complicated structures built by pigs who had apparently stolen their eggs. Sure there was some semblance of story… the pigs stole the eggs of these birds, who were apparently angry for some reason. But what was their motivation? What was their gritty backstory? WHY were they angry? And just how many Happy Meal tie-ins could they generate? That question couldn’t be answered until a star-studded, pun-laden children’s movie hit the screen, a scant 8 years later.
(Internet time, that’s almost a billion years.)
The Angry Birds Movie concerns… well, pretty much that. Some pigs steal some eggs, and after some narrative jumping jacks that simultaneously show off the skill and the desperation of the writers, the birds, now with personalities, start launching themselves at a piggy castle. Red has been given a gritty origin as an abandoned egg, now a town pariah. So… yeah.
Sigh… where do I start?
Let’s start with one of the cardinal rules here at Bad Shakespeare, in that we don’t review a movie and destroy it simply because it doesn’t fit into some unattainable ideal of what we think a movie “should be.” This is a children’s movie, and as such, we should take into consideration the target audience. Even I like children’s movies, when they’re done right. The thing is, even as a children’s movie this falls flat, mostly because the movie spends a large portion of it’s runtime setting up everything you expected from the app: The flimsy structures, the pigs building silly devices to stop the birds, the slingshot, the silly powers from each of the birds… It’s not like I’m expecting art, but beforehand I saw the preview for the Secret Life of Pets and Finding Dory, both were able to have appealing plots beyond “how do we get the birds into the slingshot?”
For a kids’ movie, it was a letdown.
The big letdown is the cast… if you told me I was going to see a movie starring Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader, and Peter Dinklage, you’d probably get as far as the “R” in Hader before I was in the car, ready to go to the movie. While they put on their predictably wonderful performances, they don’t even seem very enthusiastic about being in the movie. I just looked up the cast list to write this paragraph and slowly realized that Sean Penn was in this movie, too, mostly through a series of grunts. So, it has that going for it, I guess?
The biggest issue facing this movie is the timing of it. Angry Birds was a fun little game to play a few years ago, and a quickie, straight to DVD movie about how the birds learned to slingshot themselves at castles may have been fun 7 years ago. But it’s been almost an eternity in app time. Even if you put aside that, Angry Birds has grown from a fun little time waster to scam where you get it for free, then pay if you want to play it for any length of time. Really this was a movie that needed to come out before Rovio essentially wanted a Scrooge-McDuck Style money bin. I know that’s more of a rant against the app instead of the movie, but it’s difficult to separate the two into anything meaningful, it just feels like a continued cash grab.
The bottom line is that this is a terrible movie. It has all the real of a straight to DVD cheapie. The one positive thing I can end this review on is this: As one of the people, even in my youth, who was severely disappointed at the quality of the Super Mario Brothers Movie, I can take pride in now saying: “That movie is no longer the worst movie based on a video game.” The Angry Birds Movie has taken that mantel and run with it.