Director: Thurop Van Orman
Writer: Peter Ackerman, Eyal Podell, Jonathon E. Stewart
Starring: Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Leslie Jones, Bill Hader, Rachel Bloom, Awkwafina, Sterling K. Brown, Eugenio Derbez, Danny McBride, Peter Dinklage
What’s next, a Clash of Clans movie? (Please don’t.)
Violence/Scary Images: Little hatchlings have to save three “baby sisters” (eggs) from danger and peril on multiple occasions. The pigs play pranks on the birds. Zeta plans the total destruction of Bird and Pig Islands. Zeta has no problem imprisoning and endangering birds and pigs. Explosions and pranks momentarily injure or scare birds and/or pigs.
Language/Crude Humor: Insults/potty talk like “butt” jokes and “crap,” “freaking kidding me.” Some instances are bleeped for comedic effect.
Sexual Content: Jokes about mating season. Two birds flirt and eventually get together, hugging briefly. Discussion of two birds that had a child together. It’s pointed out repeatedly that the pigs are naked, and their butts are shown several times. Speed-dating scene where romantic compatibility is discussed.
Drug/Alcohol Use: None.
Spiritual Content: None.
Other Negative Themes: None.
Intended to entertain rather than educate, but it does teach teamwork.
Focuses on teamwork, redemption, diplomacy, and courage. Encourages individuals to see past former failures and work for the common good. Emphasis on taking responsibility, asking for forgiveness, communicating, andmoving forward.
TB: Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood continues a curious trend I’ve been noticing in the daredevil director’s recent releases. A number of his more noteworthy entries of the last 10 years or so could be rightly described as “revisionist revenge fantasies,” as they center on the idea of great tragedies in history being prevented or undone by certain protected classes. The initiating thoughts include such inquiries as “What if Hitler was killed by a small band of renegade Jewish soldiers?” and “What if runaway slaves managed to destroy their plantation owners in a blaze of glory?” This time around, we’re visiting the culturally tumultuous times of 1969, focusing on what is known as the final days of Hollywood’s Golden Age with multiple key players of the time being brought to life through expert casting and performances.
Siri: Hey, Tyrone?
TB: While I can definitely appreciate on one level being able to engage with multifaceted and difficult historical topics through a fictionalized lens as the alternative perspective entices greater interest in the finer points and nuances of the period, there is strong concern regarding how such vengeful indulgences could do more to turn up the heat rather than turn on the light on such complex topics.
TB: Having said that, upon reflection, I really am beside myself with what exactly to make of this particular entry in Tarantino’s oeuvre, as it clearly carries some of the ephemeral vestiges of a passion project (or as close to one as we could expect from him), but also explicitly showcases some of his most commonly known weaknesses as–
TB: What? What is it, Siri?
Siri: You’re reviewing the wrong movie again.
TB: What are you talking about? That’s the last movie I saw, and know it hasn’t been reviewed yet.
Siri: Okay, everything you just said there is wrong. Tyler Hummel already reviewed that movie, and you saw The Angry Birds Movie 2 just last night.
TB: Are you certain about that?
Siri: Yes, his review is right here.
TB: No, I mean – well, yes, that is surprising–but, I mean are you so sure I saw a movie last night?
Siri: Quite certain. You got Panda Express afterwards, remember?
TB: Now that you mention it, I do recall being distracted from my house for about two hours. Actually, yeah, now it’s coming back to me. We went out to see The Angry 2 Birds Movie.
Siri: Right, that’s what I just said. Except you said the title wrong.
TB: Really? That’s how it looks in the title cards.
Siri: Well, okay, yes it kinda does, but if we’re going to get through this review, you’re going to have to call more to attention than just the title.
TB: Or is it The Angry 2 Movie Birds? Or The Angry 2 Birds: Movie?
TB: Okay, okay, fine. While I’m getting my bearings, could you run me through the basic premise again?
Siri: I’ll try my best. This film and its 2016 predecessor are based on the popular Angry Birds mobile game by Rovio Entertainment which centers on a very pedestrian tale of some livid avian creatures using themselves as bludgeoning projectiles against an army of hungry pigs that have made off with their eggs. The previous film basically stretched that simple plotline to its extreme, adding vibrant quirks and character traits to the iconic game tokens.
TB: Okay, so why does this new movie exist?
Siri: Sorry, guy, but that was like asking me to divide by zero or something. That is a question that would keep our finest thinkers awake in a cold sweat. The reason behind the first movie was dubious at best. The game was already declining in popularity by that time. Now, is there really still a large enough audience to justify a new production?
TB: You’ll have to ask someone more studious of such matters than I. Perhaps there’s hope that the story that’s being weaved here is solid enough to warrant appreciation even apart from the support of any preexisting fanbase.
Siri: Are you suggesting that we try to assess The Movie 2 Angry Birds on its own merits as a work of animated family entertainment rather than as an adaptation of a largely marginalized mobile app?
TB: It would certainly set my mind closer to a state of ease. Besides, I can’t even remember the last time I played that game. Do I still even have it in there with you?
Siri: Yes, you do.
TB: When’s the last time I played it?
Siri: About 3 or 4 iOS updates ago.
TB: Far out. So yeah, let’s try that.
Siri: Well, as you might recall from the first movie, the basic idea here is a martial conflict between pigs and birds. Very few of the latter are actually “angry” in any measurable sense. The one who comes closest to that description is lead character Red (Jason Sudeikis), who’s really more of an antisocial curmudgeon than genuinely angry. All the rest are largely content with their lot in life. The reason for their supposed anger is that the pigs have conspired to steal away with the birds’ eggs, and the way the birds go about rectifying it is by using themselves as airborne ballistic weapons against the pigs’ fortifications.
TB: As far as siege tactics go, I’ve seen worse. As an aside, I really don’t like injecting politics into my reviews, but I saw in the basic thematic strains of the earlier movie opportunities for multifaceted interpretations of what to take away from that central conflict.
Siri: How do you mean?
TB: From one angle, the pig’s boisterous arrival on massive naval vessels and unlawful seizure of the birds’ most valuable resources can be taken as an exposition on the evils of colonialism. From another angle, the bird’s lackadaisical acceptance of these new and hostile personae non gratae without even so much as a pat down is a solid cautionary tale about the importance of a vetting process for migrants and foreign nationals.
Siri: You think that will help to bridge those two diametrically opposed perspectives sometime soon?
TB: I wouldn’t expect too much from this, Siri.
Siri: A fair point. But it’s not like there wasn’t some strong points of praise to be found in the original film. In fact, I recall you liking it more than expected.
TB: Granted, but the strongest points there were rather short-lived. Yes, the jokes landed surprisingly well with remarkable consistency. Yes, the character animation was to die for. Yes, it was just as much fun to listen to as it was to watch, but you won’t see me rushing to rewatch it anytime soon.
Siri: In addition to that, I was soundly pleased with how diverse in personality the trio of lead birds managed to be. Josh Gad carried some of his Olaf charm as the hyperactive speedster Chuck with solid aplomb. Danny McBride’s performance as the explosive gentle giant Bomb was charming nearly to a fault. Honestly, everyone delivered right where it counted. It’s really the fact that what they we’re working with was a bit too thin in substance to provide much more than a comical distraction.
TB: If I’m not mistaken, isn’t the whole purpose of the original game to be a time-waster? I suppose these movies are staying true to their source material in that way at least.
Siri: Please try to be nice…
TB: I am trying. This is me trying.
Siri: Well, let’s do this: what’s a good thing you noticed when you first went to see The Movie Birds 2 Angry?
TB: The short film that played before the movie started. That was fantastic.
TB: Okay, okay, I do like that the relationship between the birds and the pigs hasn’t been set back to zero. They’ve developed something of a cold understanding between their two islands. In fact, the strained status of relationships is a central focus of the story throughout. There’s a sequence of speed dating that introduces a few new players to the fray. The story proper is largely driven by a disgruntled former bride pursuing the man who left her at the alter. Plus, the strengths from the earlier film are still here. The animation is still incredibly strong, the cast really showed up for work on all sides, and the characters for the most part are still likeable.
Siri: See? Was that so hard? Now with that esta–
TB: So instead recycling the relationship between the birds and the pigs, we have a new antagonist filling the position with a fascistic highly weaponized regime threatening the entire nation state of our feathered heroes with annihilation over a petty feud.
TB: What? I was nice. Keep going, I just might do it again.
Siri: Very well. The “petty feud” in question centers on the eagle Zeta seeking a warmer climate for some reprieve from her perpetually frozen domain. Leslie Jones gives a performance that–
TB: Wait, Leslie Jones is the voice of Zeta? Not Tiffany Haddish?
Siri: Not Tiffany Haddish. Even though she does play a role here. Zeta’s lackey Debbie, to be precise.
TB: Far out. Learn something new every day. To be fair, those two are largely interchangeable as voiceover artists. I would have assumed that Haddish played them both at first glance.
Siri: But as you suggested earlier, the driving force thematically and narratively is various relationships under strained conditions. Mighty Eagle’s (Peter Dinklage) relationship with his ex, Red coming out of his comfort zone in his relationship with the tech whiz Silver (Rachel Bloom), his other relationship with the rest of the gang being strained by his unacknowledged insecurities…
TB: …and a trio of adorable hatchlings and their relationship with a few eggs that are soon due. Seriously, some of the best moments in the movie were there. While the big birds were busy faffing about with infiltration plans, wacky disguises, and spandex ice skater suits, these three ruffians are busy engaging in seafaring escapades, unplanned space travel, and doing battle with snakes. That, at the very least, was great.
Siri: Oh good! You’re being nice again.
TB: I can at least say that as farcical and perfunctory as these movies tend to be, there is something of a small beating heart at the center touching on some serious emotional and existential quandaries. Separation anxiety, envy, self-worth, familial responsibilities, and personal identity are just a few of the major threads of consideration running through the gags and shenanigans.
Siri: That’s a great way to look at it. I’m glad that we were able to–
TB: Hold your processes, sweetheart. I’m done with that now. The whole charade was incredibly toyetic. I expect more than a few playsets this holiday season based on the action sequences. Kinda disgraceful when merchandising guides the story beats rather than the other way around.
Siri: Well, yes, but…
TB: And it depresses me to no end knowing that one of those playsets is going to include or at least make reference to lava-filled ice balls. LAVA. FILLED. ICE BALLS. How did that make it past the storyboards?!
Siri: Okay, that was pretty ridiculous, but still…
TB: And clearly, Sony was aiming to milk every music right they could manage in two hours. It’s like they just took some random college student’s YouTube playlist and timed the movie around it.
Siri: Well, that’s unlikely when you think about–
TB: THEY DID “BABY SHARK”, SIRI.
TB: BABY. SHARK.
Siri: …Doo-doo doo-doo doo-doo?
Siri: I understand your frustration. It’s been a while since we’ve seen some true greatness in the animated arena. Seeing something like this feels like mere morsels being tossed rather than a full-course meal being prepared by caring hands.
TB: Oh, you know me so well.
Siri: Well, how was that short film at the beginning you mentioned? I don’t think I got in early enough for that.
TB: Yes, there was that. The 2 Birds Angry Movie is preceded by the Kickstarter-funded animated short film “Hair Love”, starring Issa Rae and written and directed by Matthew A. Cherry. The story focuses on a young Black American father’s first encounter with his daughter’s very big and very black hair. Having four younger black sisters myself, I could immediately resonate with the central focus of the story, and fell in love with it from the first shot. Beautifully animated (in 2D!!), sweetly acted/narrated by Rae, and blessed with a warm payoff that lasted all the way through the end credits, I can easily call that the best part of my whole night out. Pay attention, Oscar season.
Siri: Okay, great. That’s a good place to stop. You think you have anything to look forward to now?
TB: Do I have any more Panda Express leftover?
Siri: …no. No, you don’t.
TB: Well, there’s your answer.
+ Sharp writing + Outstanding character animation + Great performances + “Hair Love”
- Slapdash plot - Toyetic - Many groan-worthy moments of shameless pop culture pandering - There is literally NO REASON why this movie should even exist - The short film before it was better
The Bottom Line
Siri: Isn’t there anything coming out in the animated arena you can be excited about? TB: ABOMINABLE does look pretty good. So does THE ADDAMS FAMILY. Siri: They do. They do look good. TB: Mm.