Turning a globally successful game into a movie isn’t necessarily a natural move. Recent years have been littered with films that started life as games and simply didn’t make the grade on the big screen. Warcraft, anybody? Assassin’s Creed? The likes of Tomb Raider and Detective Pikachu have had a slightly easier ride but, if there’s one title that seems to have settled into its new format with a surprising degree of comfort, it’s Angry Birds. The app pitting flightless birds against green pigs was a global sensation and its first animated outing, released in 2016, earned over $350 million worldwide – not a bad return on a budget of $73 million.
Surprise! Surprise! Well, perhaps not, but we have a sequel, with the startlingly unoriginal title of The Angry Birds Movie 2. For the uninitiated, the previous film concentrated on the war between the birds – flightless, using catapults to help them take to the air – preventing their island being invaded by pigs from a nearby atoll. Under the leadership of Red (voiced by Jason Sudeikis), they succeed and, as part two opens, there’s still some needle between them with the pigs playing silly pranks. It gets to the point where a truce is on the cards, but they suddenly find they have to come together to defeat a mutual enemy – an island made of ice with a very single minded eagle at the helm.
In truth, this time round the birds are more defensive than angry – but that wouldn’t make a terribly good title. And they’re in a film that, on the surface, appears to be purely for the kids. The colours are so gaudy you need sunglasses to stave off a headache, there’s lots of frantic action and physical gags for the youngsters so that you’re tempted to simply give up on being an adult for an hour and a half. But don’t be deceived, because the film has a random selection of jokes and references that will zoom straight over the U certificate audience’s head. Like the giant bird-come-Trojan horse used by the birds to break into the ice island’s HQ and getting involved in a punch up that Mission:Impossible – Fallout would have been proud of. Malevolent eagle Zeta (Leslie Jones) curls up reading a book called Crazy Rich Avians. And then there’s the whole business of little hatchlings returning to Earth from outer space – and getting more than a little warm on re-entry.
The result is, inevitably, uneven. When it works, it’s eminently likeable fun, but you find yourself wishing it was like that more often, because the times when it falls flat on its face are too frequent. Thankfully, most of them are confined to the first half of the film so, as long as you can sit through that, you get your reward – madcap humour, acrobatic action, with a few side gags thrown in for good measure. Not classic stuff, but certainly worth the wait. The top notch array of comedy voices – alongside Sudeikis and Jones, there’s Josh Gad, Bill Hader, Maya Rudolph and a minimal dialogue appearance by Toy Story 4’s Forky, Tony Hale, as a mime artist – help keep it afloat (or should that be in the air?). And the animation, for all its outrageous colours and birds with eyebrows that belong on a cosmetics counter, is strong and sharp.
The Angry Birds Movie 2 isn’t the answer to our summer cinema prayers. At a time when we desperately need a really strong blockbuster to counteract the fair-to-middling offerings of the past few weeks, this isn’t it. It’s more fun than you might expect, and it’s likeably entertaining, but it never really takes flight.
Freda Cooper |
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Animation, Comedy, Family | Cert:U| UK, 2 August (2019) | Sony Pictures | Dir. Thurop Van Orman | With the voices of Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Bill Hader, Maya Rudolph, Leslie Jones, Peter Dinklage, Awkwafina, Tony Hale, Danny McBride.