Neither as disastrous as many expected nor as subversive as it surely could have been – we’re thinking Lego Movie-level – this lavish animated adaptation of the iconic video game series should entertain young tots just fine, though older audiences are likely to see through the paper-thin premise and utter misuse of a talented cast.
Red (Jason Sudeikis) is a perennially angry bird who has been sentenced to anger management for his troubles. The island’s tranquil existence is upended, however, when a fleet of pigs, led by the slimy Leonard (Bill Hader), arrives with the promise of friendship and a mutual exchange of ideas and culture. However, it transpires that Leonard and his pigs actually want to steal the birds’ eggs for food, and so a good ‘ol fashioned war breaks out between the two species.
The Angry Birds Movie is likely to be a film that a large portion of the grown-up audience simply harbour few strong feelings about; it’s not quite a cynical cash-grab but at the same time its utter perfunctoriness is never outside arm’s reach. It’s visually solid, no question, and there are some amusing gags for the adults – a send-up of X-Men’s Quicksilver is top-notch – but the plot is dull and unavoidably built around the fairly lousy premise of the source material.
More than all this, the characters just aren’t as expressive as you would hope for. Most of the voice actors are just playing bird versions of themselves without much pep or variation; Jason Sudeikis is that witty, sarcastic guy, Josh Gad is hyper and vaguely irritating, and sadly, you probably won’t even recognise most of the other voices (such as Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key and so on), because the actors aren’t asked to imbue them with much that’s lively or memorable.
Then there are flat-out weird affectations; Sean Penn plays Terence, a gigantic, angry bird who communicates only in growls, in what is surely one of Hollywood’s great “take the money and run” roles, while many of the musical choices are bizarrely out-of-place and even quite jarring in a children’s film, especially Limp Bizkit’s cover of The Who’s classic Behind Blue Eyes.
Things do pick up in the third act as the action picks up and the fairly ennui-inducing narrative becomes less important, but this one really doesn’t touch the sides at all. Gamers might be beside themselves to admit, however, that it trounced last month’s depressingly forgettable Ratchet and Clank; who ever saw that one coming?
The Angry Birds Movie is in UK cinemas now and US cinemas May 20th