Review: 'Angry Birds' - a 2016 attempt at a 2010 property
There's nothing unique about being a Disney fan. It's very easy to say you like something that was obviously meant to have mass appeal. So in my everlasting attempt to stand out, I decided that rather than become the billionth sale for Disney's big furry flick of the year, I'd try and vouch for the underdogs – those dark-horse films such as Rock Dog, Sly Cooper, and what we're discussing here: Angry Birds.
It's a lot harder to make a case for a movie when no-one has any expectations for it. It was like fighting a losing battle, but I was happy to at least give these some attention.
And now, the first of these films which I championed has been released! I was fortunate enough to see it on release weekend and I can say that the theater was definitely packed. Was this film the embodiment of perfection or did it leave something to be desired? Let's see.
The film is centered on Red, a large-eyebrowed, flightless bird living on the creatively named Bird Island. After an incident at a child's 'hatchday' (I swear I've heard this pun before) party, Red is sentenced to Anger Management classes.
It's here that we meet the other two characters; Chuck and Bomb. After a brief bit of interaction we're quickly introduced to the Pigs, who under the guise of being explorers, befriend the entire island except for Red. However, Red discovers the Pigs are not being honest, and realizes it's up to him to defend his home and stop the Pigs from whatever plot they have cooking.
They're not fleshed out. There's really no other way to put it. I was watching it and it was hard not to notice. They try to give the main character Red some depth with awkward, poorly-edited flashbacks, which are sometimes out of context with the scene. These fail and seem shoehorned in, in some desperate attempt to humanize the unlikable protagonist. It doesn't help the opening scene of the movie has the audience not being on Red's side, though it helps to set up the plot.
Chuck and Bomb don't have much going on, either. Chuck stays basically the same throughout; Bomb has an interesting but underdeveloped arc. One tone this movie tries to convey is that Anger doesn't always need to be repressed, and in the right situations, it is allowed. With the entire island reflecting much of children's media in its constant, wide-eyed cheeriness, it's easy to see what could've made for some social commentary. As you may expect, it doesn't go further than that.
Recently there's been a trend to make the main character despised (this movie and The Nut Job). It's not easy to do right, but it can be done. I like to think of Ash from Fantastic Mr. Fox; he isn't the nicest character, and he's incredibly selfish, but these problems derive from insecurities which we don't discover until later. With Red, we get such obvious mentions that he's an orphan with big eyebrows that it just feels synthetic. Nothing about the emotion feels real.
I'm still getting used to relaying my thoughts into a somewhat structured 'review', and this film doesn't really help. The highlights of the film are some adult jokes (the adults in my theater died laughing until they realized they had kids with them), and pretty great-looking animation! As well as a good voice role for Peter Dinklage, who does an excellent job. But the negatives far outweigh the positives. The screenplay could've used a few more rewrites; it is not finished. Editing and scene transitions were so rushed and forced that at times I felt embarrassed to be watching.
Is this a bad movie though? Perhaps to some. It's incredibly awkward when these characters say modern phrases (though this is limited to the Pigs who are more advanced than the Birds, it doesn't make it any less off-putting), or the inexplicable dance scene with one character as others look on. These are so cliche and prevalent in modern animated movies, and I can't figure out why. I can keep pointing out little things, like Red's good design, or how the theme from Matoma is barely used, yet repetitive enough that you won't miss anything by not hearing the full song.
Little things are all you can point out for this movie. There's basically zero cohesion, the character bonds aren't great, and the central conflict with the Pigs feels flawed. If you don't have a basic knowledge of the game, you'll probably be confused as to why the Pigs want the eggs considering it comes up for the first time out of nowhere. It's not well-established, which is fine. Make it a mystery! Except the audience doesn't know either, so the first scene where it's not-very-subtly hinted at is a big diversion from the story.
Another thing this film fails at is subtlety. The puns… no. They start fine and chuckle-worthy, but quickly become a cringe-fest. The background humor is also worth mentioning, with silly little gags for parents who can read faster than their kids, with things like "Fifty Shades of Green" in the background of the Pigs' ship, or the "Shell Yes" sign in the crowd of Pigs. It'd be nice if the care to place these Easter 'eggs' had been implemented when making the plot of the movie… but, oh well.
Despite my hopes that this would be a good movie, it's far from it. But it's not the worst thing ever either. If you need a number rating, I'd say a light 5/10. See the movie for some of the jokes, Peter Dinklage, and the animation. You won't remember it much afterwards though.
This will surely make Crossie happy. But never mind: I've got more films to look forward to, they can only (hopefully) go up from here.
On a positive note… Zootopia comes to DVD June 7th. Then I'll finally be seeing it.