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“Angry Birds” movie review

By Jeff Boudreaux Print

     The most downloaded video game app in history (albeit a relatively short one) is now a major motion picture, and fans of the wildly popular series of downloads can rejoice in a film that is not only funny and has something to offer each member of the family, but does a pretty good job of recreating those slingshot sieges upon Piggy Island that so many of us were privy to partake in. Finnish developing giant Rovio casts its first lot into the animated film market (courtesy of Sony Pictures) and the results are above-average to say the least. With a sharp screenplay by Jon Vitti (the seasoned humorist behind “Alvin and the Chipmunks” and “The Simpsons Movie”) that teeters on satirical, parents will find themselves laughing at quips and sight gags that their children may not recognize, some thankfully. Fortunately, the kids won’t notice as they’ll probably still be howling at avian antics propagated several frames ago.

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           Our story follows Red (Jason Sudeikis) as his short temper is constantly getting him into hot water with his fellow townsfolk and is subsequently ordered by Judge Peckinpah (Keegan-Michael Key), an owl with a “short” secret, to undergo what else but anger management counseling! He finds himself in former angry-bird Matilda’s (Maya Rudolph) “feel the Zen” class with the manic-depressive Chuck (Josh Gad), the ready-to-ignite Bomb (Danny McBride), and the perpetually grumbly Terence (Sean Penn in a non-speaking performance that may be one of the most surprising and wisest casting decisions of the year). Upsetting the applecart (not to mention Red’s seaside home) is a seafaring, bearded pig named Leonard (Bill Hader) who dazzles most of the birds in town (i.e. “not angry”) with his undeniable charm, tricks and stage shows.

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     Oh, that’s right. I forgot to mention that Leonard isn’t alone. In fact, there’s an entire shipload of pigs dressed as cowboys! Now, before you go thinking that this is all fun and games, the nefarious swine are really only there to steal every last one of the town’s eggs (i.e. children)! Scary right? The starstruck locals are oblivious as to what’s going on right under their very beaks, so it’s up to everyone’s favorite bird outcasts to follow in the footsteps of Red’s childhood hero, the almost-mythical Mighty Eagle (Peter Dinklage), to return their future residents and attempt a siege on Leonard’s city with an enormous slingshot that he left behind, and depending on the skill set of these birds…he may forever rue the day he decided to have eggs with his sausages (and I bet they’re not made of turkey either).

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      In terms of vocal performances, Jason Sudeikis made the lead role of Red his own, as the presence of the latter’s snarky, yet hilarious persona paid off in dividends. Complementing him considerably, was a delightfully nutty second-banana known as Chuck. No stranger to stealing the show in animated films (Olaf, anyone?), we apparently asked for crazy and Josh Gad certainly gave it to us. As I was looking for some sort of historical context, I couldn’t help but think back to certain classic cartoons that perhaps could have served as the inspiration behind some of these colorful characters. Every time I looked at Chuck, I was instantly reminded of that insane Aracuan bird from Walt Disney’s “Three Caballeros.” Likewise, Terence was a dead ringer for the monstrous Gossamer who appeared in a few Looney Tunes (you may remember Bugs Bunny giving him a manicure). As for Bomb, well just imagine a drastically overweight Daffy Duck with Elmer Fudd’s buckshot pre-loaded somewhere within his bodily structure!

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     “The Angry Birds Movie” has successfully proven that you can create an enjoyable film from a simple, yet undeniably popular game in the App Store. Well, as long as you go about it the right way and have the right combination of cute animals, top-notch jokes and interesting voice actors. Just don’t expect “Candy Crush Saga” to be adapted into a feature film anytime soon (at least I pray to God we don’t sink that far as a society!) One thing I really admired about this movie and its attempt to kill two birds, or in this case – audiences, with one stone so to speak, is the unrelenting assault of sight gags and white-washed double entendres. And let’s be honest with ourselves. Just because it’s technically a kid’s movie doesn’t mean all of the grownups have to be bored, right?

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     “Angry Birds” marks the co-directorial debut of longtime Disney animator Clay Kaytis (“Bolt,” “Tangled”) and journeyman storyboard artist Fergal Reilly (“The Smurfs,” “Hotel Transylvania”). While I don’t believe that anyone is expecting to see a visual masterpiece unfold before them, I have to say that these characters (who were previously only available on the smartphone screens of a sizeable margin of the Earth’s population) are in fact rendered quite nicely in Digital 3D and I suspect that this respectable freshman effort from Rovio will only pave the way for bigger and better offerings in the foreseeable future.

**1/2 (two-and-a-half out of four stars)

 

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