If you’ve ever played the mobile video game Angry Birds, you might have found yourself wondering — why am I sling-shotting cartoon birds at grinning green pigs? Why are these birds so angry? What have the pigs done to deserve this destruction? “Angry Birds,” the movie, is here to fill in that backstory, to answer the questions that may or may not have been asked, and provide motivation for the avian rage.
The film, directed by Clay Kittis and Fergal Reilly, from a screenplay by “Simpsons” writer Jon Vitti, proves to be more than just a gimmick, and doesn’t skimp on any of the quirky wackiness that you might expect from a film about blob-shaped, flightless birds battling pigs.
Jason Sudeikis lends his voice talents to the angriest of the birds, Red, and his snarky, sardonic delivery is perfect for the character. He’s the red one, per the name, with the perpetually V-shaped eyebrows. Those brows are the source of some angst, having been teased about them as a kid. That early torment has led to his current worldview, as a perpetual victim whom the world is out to get, an oddball and loner with a short fuse who doesn’t fit in on the happy-go-lucky paradise island where he and all the other flightless birds live.
He doesn’t even fit in during his court-mandated anger management classes. “Angry Birds” somehow balances those recognizable real-world elements with all-out fantastical silliness, and that contrast lends itself to the film’s weird charm. Zenned-out Matilda (Maya Rudolph) teaches the island’s other angry birds in attendance — the speedy motormouth Chuck (Josh Gad), uncontrollably explosive Bomb (Danny McBride) and intimidating but silent Terence (Sean Penn), who only growls.
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The emotional foundation of bullying and loneliness is almost too human for a film that features a razzle dazzle cowboy dance number performed by enthusiastic and energetic green pigs. The porky pirates arrive one day in an enormous ship, led by the swaggering Southern-accented Leonard (Bill Hader), bearing tropical banquets and dance parties with DJs named Daft Piggy, sweeping the birds off their feet with entertainment and hoopla.
Red’s the only skeptic in the bunch, trained by years of expecting the worst from others. Also, he’s finally in a position where he’s actually being oppressed — the pigs parked their boat right on his house. But his suspicion is ignored, and soon the overbearing porcine partiers make off with the birds’ precious eggs, their children, for a feast on Piggy Island.
So while the plot just might put some kids off eating eggs (are they baby birds or protein-rich snacks?) the themes at play in “Angry Birds,” are surprisingly somewhat nuanced. The story demonstrates how certain traits — Chuck’s speed, Red’s anger, Bomb’s, well, bombastic qualities — might be looked down upon by society’s norms, but can be strengths when harnessed in the right way, like in a bird slingshot.
Peter Dinklage voices the fantastically vainglorious, over-the-hill Mighty Eagle whom Red idolizes and hopes will save them from the pigs. When it turns out he’s just a paunchy braggart who can’t fly, Red realizes with exasperation that, “the fate of the world relies on idiots like me.”
That message is all too relatable — the fate of the world relies on idiots like all of us.
☆☆☆☆ out of 5
Cast: Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Peter Dinklage, Bill Hader.
Directors: Clay Kittis and Fergal Reilly.
Running time: 1:37.
Rated: PG, for rude humor and action.