I was thinking…
…when the first home video game, “Pong,” surfaced in the early 1970’s, it is dubious anyone thought, Hey, this would make a good movie someday.
Disney’s Tron marked the first direct video game/movie connection in 1982. While that relationship between the big screen and the arcade screen worked well, it was still not a movie directly based on a video game. That honor belongs, unfortunately, to Super Mario Brothers (1993).
It’s a wonder anyone tried to make a video game movie again after that. And yet, they did.
Although there’s been a mixture of success and failure in the genre since then, it does not look like the video game-to-movie business is going to steam down anytime soon.
Hence, The Angry Birds Movie. But a phone app game-to-movie? Isn’t that just a little ridiculous? I’d say, what’s next? Siri, The Movie? But they already did that. It was called Her.
Not that Angry Birds did not already occupy a niche in popular culture. After the wickedly successful launch of the original game, toys started cropping up in stores. Even Lucasfilm jumped on the bandwagon and two “Star Wars Angry Bird” games were launched along with a slew of corresponding merchandise. So, it was just a matter of the right hands being greased before a 73 million dollar film was made.
Seen through the eyes of Red (Jason Sudeikis—Horrible Bosses), a delightfully honest yet short-tempered bird, The Angry Birds Movie tells the tale of an island populated by numerous flightless birds who live their simple, borderline primitive lives without knowing of a world outside their own.
Red’s brutal honesty and hesitance to toe the line eventually brings him up before the judicial system. Judge Peckinpah (Keegan Michael-Key—Keanu), sentences him to attend an anger management class where he meets three equally obstreperous avians.
Shortly after these sessions in futility begin, the island’s inhabitants are shocked when a ship arrives on their shores–a ship that happens to crush Red’s seaside home as it docks.
Descending the gangplank is none other than a facially coifed pig calling himself Leonard (Bill Hader—Trainwreck). Bringing a variety of gifts and verbally stroking the birds’ egos, Leonard and his fellow green porcine accomplices are welcomed with open wings by everyone…
…except Red, whose suspicion of the new arrivals turns out to be well-founded.
As more and more pigs arrive on the island, Red finally manages to convince his new anger management friends, Chuck (Josh Gad—Frozen) and Bomb (Danny McBride—This Is the End), that something is amiss. Together, they then seek out the legendary Mighty Eagle (Peter Dinklage—Pixels), whose past exploits promise to make him the hero the island needs just as the pigs’ plot finally reveals itself.
Although it takes a few minutes to warm up, once Angry Birds truly reveals its namesake, the film spreads its wings, so to speak.
Perhaps it is just my empathy for Red, but the character’s refusal to say and do what is socially expected and, indeed, demanded, makes him a hero of our current millennium. In a time when anyone who fails to consistently speak with politically correct terminology is labeled a bigot, a racist and a hate-monger, Red’s words and actions set him apart not as a pariah but as a brave pioneer.
Angry Birds seems to back up this assessment, as it is strangely soaked with social and political commentary, perhaps aimed at the parents whose children dragged them in to see the movie in the first place.
Red is the ultimate boy who is unafraid to say the Emperor is wearing no clothes. Despite being labeled as hot-headed, he is the only one who understands and lives the idiom made popular from the Trojan War: beware of Greeks bearing gifts.
Although the Greeks are pigs in this case, there is no mistaking the warning they represent: not everyone who pretends to be peaceful and friendly is truly interested in either friendship or peace. This admonition comes at an oddly poignant time when European countries and our own are being flooded with so-called refugees and illegal immigrants who all claim to be seeking peace and security.
But their actions have certainly spoken otherwise, haven’t they.
Red’s search for Mighty Eagle might, in fact, mirror our search for a leader, however flawed, who can direct us out of a dangerous time.
Social commentary aside, Angry Birds is still very much a kid’s movie. Although laced with freeze frame jokes and inside homages to adult themes (Judge Peckinpah’s name being more than just a play on words, but also a nod to the director of extremely violent films like The Wild Bunch), the movie is drenched with puerile humor. The number of wiggly piggy butts notwithstanding, I must admit to laughing more than is healthy at the Lake of Wisdom scene.
The film pacing is irritatingly lopsided, however. Slow to get started, the speed ramps up to the point where it jumps from scene to scene and joke to joke, with no room for a breather and little interest in developing the climax. It is as if the second half of the film was edited together specifically to placate the youngsters whose attention spans have been reduced to nanoseconds by non-stop parades of inane television shows fueled by caffeine and sugar.
Far from the worst video game made into a movie there is (ahem, BloodRayne. To read my scathing review of that monstrosity, click here), Angry Birds provides enough to entertain across the age range. Does it have enough staying power to breathe new life into the genre of video game movies?
Well, let’s just say, it is probably only a matter of time before the star-studded premiere of Pandora v Spotify: Dawn of Music.
Ammo Dump rating: 6 out of 10 slingshots
I’ll talk more about this film and others during my radio show every Friday afternoon at 4:10 pm. Listen in on WJBC-AM1230 in Central Illinois. For the rest of the world, listen on @ALphaEXray.. And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter
The Angry Birds Movie
Run time: 97 minutes (1 hour, 37 minutes)