THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE Review
Director: Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly
There really aren’t any great children’s films that aim to teach the American youth of the atrocities of colonialism. That’s probably not the sentence you expected to read when clicking on this review, but let me tell you: THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE had everything going in its favor to be one of the most educationally relevant releases of 2016, but blew its load by opting for sophomoric fart humor and frivolous musical numbers over profundity.
Following Red, the titular angry bird, viewers are initially introduced to a competent story of a disgruntled young man whose moody personality isolates him from a community of non-flying, island-dwelling fowls. Along come the pigs: a shipload of a selfish swine that fool the loving populace and steal their cherished eggs. In short, THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE is about fat colonialists desecrating the land of a peaceful people.
I think there’s an Iron Maiden song out there about this film
And what a great idea this was. After all, whoever was tasked with turning an iPhone game into a film must have spent months crying under a table, but the fact that they ran with the idea and didn’t pitifully give up merits commendation in its own right. Unfortunately, nothing in THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE was executed to make this message work right.
Narratively, directors Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly had a fantastic foundation — a postmodern commentary on colonialist greed that expressly works as a cautionary tale for children. But moralistically, THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE is bedlam. In a quasi-INSIDE OUT attempt at justifying a character’s actions, Kaytis and Reilly end up telling a story in which anger is the final solution. Where Pixar managed to justify its emotional seesawing by showcasing the merits of each character, THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE is just in a perpetual state of bloodlust. It’s actually kind of terrifying.
“Don’t blame me for our problems, blame this swine,” said no one ever except Hitler
While this would work as a fun subversion of the tropes seen in animated films, main bird Red has a bizarre hero’s journey in which he realizes that the solution to his internal struggle involves making everyone around him just a bit more hostile. One could probably argue that THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE is to children’s films what Malcolm X was to the civil rights movement, but I’m not going to dignify that sentence with a proper conclusion. The fact that the pigs are the architects of their own demise by giving the birds a slingshot as a gift is clever, but the violent fallout of the birds’ exploitation, albeit staying true to the app it’s based on, doesn’t really service in teaching its young audience anything but a dated concept of “an eye for an eye.”
Here’s the rub, though: Even if this film were absolutely thematically misguided — which it isn’t, it just doesn’t really know what it’s trying to say — it wouldn’t matter, because THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE is jaw-droppingly daft. Terrible editing makes for a fast-paced mess in which characters are never properly dissected. Instead, we get dozens of lame archetypes and pee jokes. Out of a smorgasbord of physical and verbal comedy, almost nothing lands. It is blatantly unfunny for anyone past the age of 10 and willfully avoids leveling the playing field so that adult viewers can glean something from the experience.
Pictured: me after hearing Imagine Dragons in the soundtrack
Worst of all, the reliance on musical cues makes for such a spastic experience that I can hardly keep up with how injudicious the film’s comedic approach is compared to its admittedly strong visual polish. When asked what film to take your children to, THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE is exactly the film I’d advise against, purely because it’s the root cause of the ADHD-driven noise that puts 21st century youth on medication. The film can’t seem to stand still for a single minute. No emotional beat lasts long enough, and constant edits between songs make for such a frustrating experience that I’d might as well have just thrown my child into a ball pit and called it a day of education.
It’s not exactly the Mein Kampf of children’s films, but gee, what an odd fate befell this animated project. Many are sure to write off THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE, declaring, “of course it was going to be horrible, what did you expect?” But I beg to differ. Kaytis and Reilly had everything at their disposal to not only make a gorgeous and funny film (the former of which they admittedly accomplished), but a resoundingly meaningful one. Yes, it’s ridiculous to teach our children about colonial exploitation through a film based on an app, but there’s no reason not to do it if it works. Unfortunately, THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE is a victim of its own ambitions, too desperately trying to appeal to children and too committed to referencing the game that bears its namesake. Leave this one be; it’s a rotten egg.
Verdict: Do Not Recommend