After saving his island from the egg-eating Pigs in the first movie, former outcast Red (Jason Sudeikis) now enjoys being the local hero. But when the Pigs call truce, Red worries he will again fade into obscurity without an enemy to uphold his valiant status. It soon becomes clear to Red that the truce was called for a reason: both Pigs and Birds are threatened by the Eagles, led by the crazed Zeta (Leslie Jones), and the former enemies must work together to save their islands.
In the pantheon of video game adaptations, the first Angry Birds Movie was a decent example, though not by an especially wide margin. Both Warcraft and Assassin’s Creed were as ambitious as they were flawed, Rampage was inane fun at best, and Tomb Raider was enjoyable enough but ultimately a bit disappointing. The Angry Birds Movie’s greatest feat was that it managed to adapt source material with even less to base itself on – a toilet-friendly mobile game – and actually make some likeable characters and a cute world out of it. But The Angry Birds Movie 2 recently broke a record. It is the highest rated video game movie ever made as far as reviews go, currently holding an 82% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Regardless, after the first one was good for the little ones but only serviceable for anyone else, my expectations were still pretty neutral.
So colour me, well, red. I liked it. In fact, there were many, many moments in this that I really liked. It was damn funny.
There are two jokes that are lamer and more dated than an N-Dubz calendar: dabbing and Baby Shark aren’t cool or funny anymore even by my distanced position. But other than that, nearly every aspect of this was an improvement over the first one. The plot is simple but hilarious – the birds and pigs face an enemy like no other in the brilliant Leslie Jones’ Zeta, who wants to turn the pig and bird islands into private entertainment and relaxation resorts. Her reason? Her fiancé left her many years ago, and she’s been living on an inconveniently frozen island since, and she “deserves it! She worked hard enough and should treat herself!” Brilliant. Also in that is a neat little visual metaphor for her frozen heart – it’s an ingenious concept for a comedic villain.
Watching the Birds and Pigs work together is equally great, and it means we get more of the Bill Hader-voiced leader of the Pigs, King Mudbeard, whose smarmy drawl cracked me up in the last movie and continues to do so here. Fans of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend will also be happy to hear star Rachel Bloom join the cast as new female co-lead Silver, who proves an interesting foil to Sudeikis’ Red and challenges his fears of both losing his stardom and leadership, but also his worry that people will ostracise him again. I was quite amazed by how much I enjoyed returning to this cast of characters from a first film that I watched and thought just fine – Josh Gad’s hyperactive Chuck, Danny McBride’s dim Bomb, Peter Dinklage’s hilarious fraud Mighty Eagle. And again, I have to remind myself, this is all based on an app… It’s great to see something genuinely well thought-out come from the concept. It makes stains like The Emoji Movie seem like less of a looming pattern – this is more The Lego Movie than that, where something that just shouldn’t work does because it has clearly been developed with an eye for character and comedy.
Speaking of which, there was one sequence that had me, the other adults and the children in the audience in utter stitches. In the scene, the pigs and the birds must try and sneak into Zeta’s fortress, and they do so while all piled in an unconvincing Eagle suit. Each attempting to puppeteer the flailing feathered façade, one such attempt sees them parking alongside an Eagle guard at a urinal. This unlucky, silent guard just wants to enjoy his leak. But the team needs his key card, and watching them in this daft suit try and steal it from him, in this location of all places, and then seeing what happens to the poor guard… it’s a wonderful bit of slapstick animation, it reminded me of something from classic Bugs Bunny.
The adorable hatchlings from the end of the first movie also get a side-story that manages to have absolutely nothing to do with the main plot and yet never once feels like a distraction when we cut to it. Their comedy ranges from sweet to slapstick to a scene that shocks a laugh, one of the hatchlings saying “that got dark.” It kept things unpredictable in the best way a madcap comedy can do, and thankfully never strayed into the “so random” approach a lot of children’s family comedies have done for a good decade now. But even that plot ends sweetly, again unpredictably, and the film’s non-judgemental attitude prevails through to its ultimate message of teamwork and friendship. A standard in kids’ movie lessons, but it’s all made palatable by director Thurop Van Orman’s grasp over just how funny to be and how sweet to be at the right moments.
Genuinely cartoonish slapstick fun for both kids and adults, and the best video game adaptation yet. The Angry Birds Movie 2. Who’da thought?
Author: Tom, Prestwich store