Three years too late. That’s the first – and most likely last – thought that comes to mind when news leaked that one-time mobile game app champion, “Angry Birds,” would receive the big-screen, animation treatment (otherwise known as corporate brand extension). Half a decade ago, Angry Birds could be found on practically every mobile device, iPhone, Android, and otherwise. A seemingly straightforward, endlessly addictive game pitting the angry birds of the title against porcine opponents, Angry Birds didn’t exactly suggest itself for full-on, feature-length treatment, but that certainly didn’t stop Sony Pictures and its Finnish-based partner, Rovio Animation, from moving ahead with production. Directed by animation veterans Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly and written by Jon Vitti (Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, Alvin and the Chipmunks, The Simpsons), The Angry Birds Movie offers a troublingly intolerant message about rejecting outsiders/foreigners who don’t look and sound like you and embracing your inner isolationist and xenophobe.
When we first meet Red (voiced by Jason Sudeikis), he’s on the job, working as an entertainer at a kid’s birthday party, except he arrives late and when the kid’s father refuses to pay him for his services, he blows his stack, verbally haranguing the kid’s parents and slamming a gluten-free cake (health fad mockery alert) in the father’s face. In short, he’s the perfect role model for kids in the audience who want to let their Ids out to wreak minor amounts of havoc. Before long, though, Red is face to face with Bird Island’s chief judge/voice of authority, Peckinpah (Keegan-Michael Key), and forced to enter an anger management class led by Matilda (Maya Rudolph), a New Age/hippie type with anger issues of her own. Ever the reluctant, recalcitrant hero, Red refuses to play along to get along, openly disparaging Matilda’s efforts and the other eccentric members of the anger management group, Chuck (Josh Gad), Bomb (Danny McBride), and Terence (Sean Penn).
Chuck talks fast and runs faster. He’s practically the Flash/Quicksilver of the Angry Birds universe; zipping here, there, and everywhere. Bomb lives up to his name: When he loses his temper, he explodes. Oddly, though, he doesn’t harm himself or others, just property in the immediate vicinity of his explosion. The towering Terence doesn’t speak; he grunts. Together, they make for badly matched Super Friends, but it’s only a matter of time before their anger management issues become a plus, not a negative. That only comes, however, with the sudden arrival of green-hued pigs via pirate ship. They leader, Leonard (Bill Hader), offers his hand in friendship and cost-free entertainment to the willfully naive denizens of the island. He’s far more suspicious of Leonard’s intentions, especially after finding a veritable army of pigs hiding out in the hold of the ship. No matter, the island’s leaders fully embrace the porcine interlopers and their resource depletion ways.
The peace between species doesn’t last long, of course. Red’s initial suspicions turn out to be correct, setting off a finale that pits a full contingent of angry birds against their unsuspecting foes in a walled city on Piggy Island. A gigantic sling makes an unsurprising appearance. So do flightless birds arcing high into the air, destroying all manner of awkwardly constructed porcine structures when they make contact (they emerge relatively unscathed from the rubble), essentially emulating the game’s dynamics, if not its (lack of) logic. It’s enough to bring a smile or two to long-time fans of the mobile app game. Unfortunately, the underlying anti-foreigner, pro-xenophobic mention will – or at least should – have the opposite effect on moviegoers (frowns will not be turned upside down). It’s not the kind of message parents would want their children to learn, especially from a supposedly innocuous, inoffensive family-oriented film like The Angry Birds Movie.