I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Jared McMillan // Film Critic
THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE | 97 min | PG
Director: Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly
Cast: Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader, Peter Dinklage, Sean Penn, Keegan-Michael Key and Kate McKinnon
It’s no secret that for the past 25 years, Hollywood has been trying to figure out how to ride the wave of video game popularity. It is also no secret that when it comes to adaptations of these video games, the results are somewhat good to downright disastrous. From 1993’s SUPER MARIO BROS. to this year’s RATCHET AND CLANK, Hollywood can’t seem to figure out the right mixture to relate to both entertain kids and tap into the nostalgia of the older audience.
However, with the advent of smartphones, there is now a different platform for video games to exist on. And no mobile video game has had the impact that Angry Birds has attained. The concept itself is pretty generic puzzle; you just aim and fire a slingshot via touchscreen. But its mass appeal is in the clever use of characters to give the game personality. The story is built around pigs trying to steal bird eggs for consumption, so you use various birds in order to break down their defenses and save the eggs. As of 2014, there have been over 2 billion downloads of Angry Birds, so Hollywood was bound to answer the moo of the cash cow.
THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE, directed by first-timers Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly, attempts to add a little more depth to the story that we have come to know and love. Our main bird Red (Jason Sudeikis) has been picked on his whole life, and it has led him to have a short fuse. After an altercation with a family, the judge orders Red to attend anger management classes. Here he becomes reluctant companions with fellow repressors yellow bird Chuck (Josh Gad) and Bomb (Danny McBride).
While Red tries to realize his place in society, Bird Island gets new visitors in the form of pigs, led by Leonard (Bill Hader). They have all these gifts for the island, making every bird welcome them with open arms. In fact, all they believe in is happiness, so being happy leads to naïveté. While they throw a giant bash for the birds, Red realizes that the pigs are up to no good. Because they’re the villains of the game, they in turn are the villains of the movie, stealing all of the eggs, and leaving Red to take charge. They must go to Piggy Island and get the eggs back.
Watching ANGRY BIRDS is like watching a movie that’s 85% finished. You can tell that the animation has a great look to it, and the 3D is nearly flawless; it’s very impressive in its presentation. However, it’s the substance that makes the viewer realize that something is off, but the inconsistencies would’ve easily been fixed as long as the identity of the movie could’ve been chosen.
The fact is that the people that made the movie were trying to access a broad spectrum of viewers, so there are two different types of movies at hand: one that is lighthearted fun for the kids, and another that forsakes that purity to get to adults. For example, there is a lot of symbolism regarding the pigs and the birds, namely an allusion to pillaging and destruction in the name of civilization. At one point, Leonard has some of his pigs, dressed as cowboys, get up and do a song-and-dance for their feathered friends. It is a clear distinction to cowboys and Indians, but one that never is addressed.
You have one world that is harmless and fun for kids, but then there is Red’s perspective, which is cold and cynical for adults. It’s because of this duality that there is a constant odd shift happening throughout the story, hinged on the fact that every character, including the villains, has personality…except for our protagonist. Because the viewer has fun with every other character but Red, it can be difficult to actually care about anything that happens to him during the movie’s climactic points.
I get that the catered audience for ANGRY BIRDS is going to be children, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. However, when you bring in sociopolitical symbolism and terrible puns, it’s easy to forget that is the case. It takes the adult viewer out of the innocent frame of reference, which leads to criticism on an adult level. The cynicism is just a little too much for a kids’ movie, and it’s also pretty bland in its approach. So while there is a lot going for it at most parts, the others just seem out of place.
If you’re a parent, take your kids to see the movie, they will definitely love it. All of the children in attendance at the screening had a blast. It might be a good time for the child audience, but the opinion will waver on whether the whole family can enjoy it. In the pantheon of video game adaptations, this one is a forgivable miss, but at least it is more entertaining than not.
THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE opens nationwide on Friday.