Wednesday, 15 June 2016

The Angry Birds Movie (2016) - Movie Review

With all that I’ve willingly come across, I’ve mostly detached from any feeling that a particular film has something against me personally. Sure, films like Mommy and God’s Not Dead offend certain aspects of my being, but I mean just in terms of the film’s existence itself. This is a marked difference to that. When the trailer came out, and a long while until I discovered the existence of an Emoji movie (no, I'm not kidding), I wanted to throw my hands up and officially declare that Hollywood has run out of ideas. Then the posters started cropping up everywhere, complete with the slogan “Why so angry?” like Rovio was actively trying to taunt me. As if the prospect of a film based on one of the most inexplicably popular and bugged beyond belief mobile games wasn’t daunting enough. What makes this even weirder is that this notion of the film trying to make me hate it? It isn’t exclusive to the marketing. Let’s dive in and I’ll explain.

The plot: Red (Jason Sudeikis) has anger issues that make him a social pariah amongst his fellow birds. However, when a boat full of pigs arrives at their island, led by the charismatic Leonard (Bill Hader), Red knows that something isn’t right. It’s up to Red and his fellow anger management clients Chuck (Josh Gad) and Bomb (Danny McBride) to stop the pigs before they rob the entire island blind.

The main characters are… entertaining? Yeah, I’m confused by this too. Sudeikis as Red plays the guy who saw it all coming a little too close to the archetype, but he still gives a solid performance in spite of that. Whether it’s his general grumblings about his life or giving surprisingly effective speeches like when he confronts Mighty Eagle, he is very entertaining as our lead. And speaking of Mighty Eagle, I initially scoffed at Peter Dinklage’s involvement in this movie, for more than obvious reasons I’m sure, but he imbues the character with the air of grandiosity and being slightly useless that fits well with how he’s imagined here. Gad as Chuck is hyperactive without getting to the point of grating, a hat trick he managed back with Olaf in Frozen so it’s nice to see that that particular skill set hasn’t left him yet. McBride, unsurprisingly for those who are more regular viewers of his work, is probably given the most consistently good one-liners of the entire cast, and he certainly doesn’t let down his material. Maya Rudolph works as the barely-holding-it-together self-help guru, Hader is good as our villain, Keegan-Michael Key checks out as the strawman judge/political figure, and Sean Penn fulfils what his role required. Yeah, him as the massive bird Terence leads to mostly grumbles and grunts but, much like Vin Diesel, he gives the character a feeling of life with how he delivers it.

Given how I and I’m guessing so many others were seriously not looking forward to this thing, I’m honestly taken aback by how good of a footing this film starts out on. I’d almost describe it as working man’s humour with how a lot of it is derived from Red and his interaction with the rest of the island. Namely, they all see him as the one who needs help while everyone else is so sanitised that I’m willing to bet that some titbit about everyone being physically incapable of flying due to utter laziness was in the original draft. What I will describe this as is weirdly relatable, especially when it comes to the main three. As someone with long-running issues when it comes to anger management (and no, not just because of the crap I can end up watching for a review), I can see bits of real life in how Red, Chuck and Bomb are in social situations. Maybe it’s as a result of being in more than enough self-help and emotional management groups in my time, but these definitely feel like people I’ve legitimately come across in the world. It probably helps that the feeling of being ostracised for your, let’s say, emotional issues is something that I’m sure more than a few people will be familiar with, and the rest of the birds are essentially a society of douchebags, so relating to the main characters is dead easy.

The animation, as has been mentioned many times before I’m guessing, is honestly better than this kind of film would warrant on the surface. The CGI for the feathers is good, they managed to not screw up them being wet which is always appreciated, and the action scenes make use of energy. Good God, what kind of state are we in when I am able to say “Every other animation studio out there? Take notes from the Angry Birds Movie.”? Well, if more people did, a bloody good state far as I’m concerned. Chuck is where the majority of the higher-energy sequences revolve around, which given his super-speed is a given, and while there can be quite a few 3D fanservice shots (you know, where things are poking out at the screen for no reason other than to justify the extra cost for the 3D), it’s engaging and fun to watch. If I was to just cut this film down to being just an extended advertisement for the mobile game, which is most likely the case, I’d give it a plus because the climactic flying bird scene made me kind of giddy while watching it. I watched this a very short time after deleting Angry Birds and other such distractions from my phone, but after that scene, I actually considered re-installing it. Advertising usually doesn’t get to me in this way nowadays, so points for managing that.

As I’ve hopefully explained above, there is legitimately quite a bit to like about this film. It’s not a masterpiece, don’t get me wrong, but there is some honest entertainment to be gotten from this. Well, remember what I said about how it felt like the film posters were mocking me ever so slightly? To my bewilderment, the film proper seems to follow in that line of thought. Whenever it feels like the film has managed to keep a steady track record, something comes along to ruin it. This mainly starts once the pigs turn up, along with all the pig puns in the world! Seriously, it is immensely frustrating to be going through the film all fine and dandy, and then suddenly you’re punched in the face with a joke about a ham radio. Sure, the birds have their share of in-jokes, like Judge Peckinpah and Mighty Eagle having a gold record of Hotel California on his cave wall, but the pigs walk away with the massive trophy for their non-efforts. If nothing else, this film helped me better realise what it is about puns that works, and what about them doesn’t. Stuff like Mr. Peabody & Sherman, who told the makers of the Trojan Horse “if at first you don’t succeed, Troy, Troy again”, is kind of lame but shows some effort in how they were set up. Here? Ham radios, Hamnesty International, Kevin Bacon in Hamlet; this is the kind of laziness that unfortunately crops up fairly often in media meant for children. I’d argue that the visual gag about suicide would cut that claim down (yes, seriously, during a motion-lapse sequence as if they were ashamed to include it at all), and yet here we are still, listening to cringe-inducing dialogue. Never before have I encountered a film that seemed to determined to make me hate it in spite of itself.

All in all, at times, this feels like the more anger-centric version of Inside Out with how it portrays those with anger issues, how others see them, and how anger is ultimately useful in being able to see what’s wrong with the world around you. At other times, it’s launching extremely lame wordplay at the audience at the speed of ten Chucks. When it’s all weighed up however, between the good acting, animation and the occasion legitimately funny joke, it makes for a decent watch. I can definitely understand why the soundtrack has turned into a meme, though; Limp Bizkit’s version of Behind Blue Eyes may work in portraying the impotent angst Red goes through, but it’s presence is still disconcerting.

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