Since it was launched in 2009, the Angry Birds game has been downloaded over a billion times. It’s had numerous spin-offs and tie-in merchandise and now it’s got its own movie. If you’ve ever played the game, you’ll know the feeling when you’ve got your shot lined up (or so you think) only for your finger to slip and the white bird (the one which lays the exploding egg) launches on the wrong trajectory. In a desperate attempt to salvage the turn, you end up tapping the screen too late and the egg explodes way off the mark, leaving your target completely unmoved. And if that’s not a tortuously wrought metaphor for “The Angry Birds Movie” then I don’t know what is.
When an island populated by happy, flightless birds is suddenly visited by an armada of green pigs, the visitors are welcomed with open wings. Except by Red who, with his friends Chuck and Bomb, sets out to discover what the pigs are really up to.
For a franchise with a reputation for wit and invention, there’s precious little of it on show in its own movie. Instead, its sensibilities seem rooted in the 1990s, almost as if the writers binge watched “Seinfeld” before penning this. As a result, we get a movie with a bunch of jokes about anger management therapy and allusions to the little annoyances and frustrations of everyday life. The tone is all over the place, flailing wildly as it reaches for the multi-layered storytelling humour that Pixar and others have mastered but instead it just stumbles back and forth between risqué throwaway lines and goofy slapstick.
It takes forever for the actual story to get going – it’s already given away all its ‘best’ gags in the trailers – and in its desperation to contextualise everything from the game, it fails to revel in and celebrate its own absurdity, almost feeling like its apologising for or explaining away the strangeness of the original premise at times. It finds ever more tenuous rationalisations until, finally, it just gives up and announces that one of the characters can now – for no real reason – shoot fireballs from their butt.
Whichever way you look at it, “The Angry Birds Movie” is a unfortunate misfire that doesn’t seem to understand its own legacy. The games are great fun: clever, challenging and amusing – everything the movie isn’t. Even the animated five minute “Angry Birds Toons” shorts captured the spirit of the games way better than this disappointingly generic movie. I can’t remember another film which so badly missed it’s ‘moment’ as “The Angry Birds Movie”. It’s bright and colourful enough to amuse the kids for an hour and a half but it’s about two years too late and a few good ideas short to entertain anyone else.