Guest Review by the imitable Sarah Olivares
Part of any movie-watching experience is what you bring to it – and what I brought to Angry Birds was very low expectations. I was happy to have them exceeded, even though that’s a pretty lukewarm recommendation.
The symbiotic relationship that exists between the studios that produce an hour and a half of guaranteed kiddie entertainment and the parents who purchase tickets by the half-dozen means that, in the absence of real competition at the box office, nobody in the chain of supply for these types of movies is required to devote a lot of thoughtful analysis toward whether a film is individually worth it or not. Kids are typically happy to see anything they’ve seen a trailer for, and parents are typically happy when the kids are happy. And Angry Birds, with its app-related origins, bright colors and fart humor, seemed a ready example of this. I’d already decided not to see it by the time I learned its creators were also behind the mid-2000’s brain junk-food Open Season, Ice Age: The Meltdown, and a certain “squeakquel” that shall not be named.
Angry Birds hardly rises above standard kid’s movie fare, but neither does it fall into most of the usual traps. Much of the humor is of the bodily function variety, but it never depends upon that at the expense of genuine cleverness or the development of its characters. The film tells the story of Red, the app’s iconic and big-eyebrowed angry protagonist (voiced by Jason Sudeikis), who has lived his childhood and adult life isolated from the other birds because of his explosive anger issues. The best children’s films easily ring true for all ages, and Angry Birds doesn’t forget the parents out there. Red has grown intolerant of bird society’s fussy and unrelenting strain to be always cheerful, and it’s easy to sympathize. This cynical sensibility puts Red and his neighbors at odds once again when the suspiciously friendly Pigs arrive, led by the unsavory King Leonard (voiced by Bill Hader).
While not seeming terribly concerned about imparting any specific message to children, Angry Birds takes the love of its littlest fans seriously and doesn’t condescend. After several interactions with other birds, you come to find out Red has a soft spot for the authenticity and non-judgment of the island’s baby birds, who are cheerful by nature and not by social pressure. Last summer’s Pixar gem Inside Out was a wonderful railing against the idea that happiness is the only thing worth feeling. That message was especially important for young children, that it’s really okay to be sad. In spare moments that are almost unintentionally touching, Angry Birds makes the same case for rage: it’s okay and, in fact, it’s your right to reject anyone telling you how to feel.
Angry Birds suffers from unnecessary filler and an under-cooked plot, but manages to squeeze in enough genuine laughs, cultural references, and food-for-thought to make it a fun and engaging watch for kiddos and a tolerable 97 minutes well spent for the rest of the family.