The battle for the eggs is won, but the pig war is just getting started for angry birds Red (Jason Sudeikis), Bomb (Danny McBride) and Chuck (Josh Gad). Over on Piggy Island, King Leonard (Bill Hader) discovers a third island populated with eagles led by their grape colored drama queen, Zita (Leslie Jones). She plans an arctic eminent domain scheme to turn both bird island and piggy island into her own tropical paradise. Leonard calls a truce with Red and they assemble a team to save their homes. The recruits include Chuck’s brainy sister, Silver (Rachel Bloom), the gadget swine Gary (Stirling K Brown), Leonard’s second in command Courtney (Awkwafina), and Mighty Eagle (Peter Dinklage) who becomes reluctantly skittish at the mere sight of the island.
2016 was the year when video game movies were put to the test to see if a new generation of filmmakers could adapt one medium to another without sacrificing the spirit, as evident from the likes of Doom, House of the Dead, and Super Mario Brothers. While the five contenders completely outshined those past mistakes, they still failed to be entertaining whether or not you played the games. Between itself and Warcraft, The Angry Birds Movie was the best case scenario that ironically had very little to work with outside of birds, pigs, eggs, and a slingshot. It was certainly the most fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, even if the score didn’t reflect that, and it made a ton of money while it’s brethren sunk at the box-office.
But where do you go from there? Because at first glance this looked like it was plagiarizing one of the best modern platformers of all time, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze.
To the moon and back in its own direction because there is so much this story can accomplish by disowning its roots. One of them being the pigs who were relegated to minion rip offs in the first film, but are now traded for more pinpoint slapstick including an elaborate keycard mission that turns the restroom into a Saw deathtrap assembled by the Looney Tunes. This improves the pacing of the middle act after suffering many one note puns involving ham. The villain, Zita, was definitely a surprise in her development behind Leslie Jones’ naturally animated voice, which is also commendable for the rest of the celebrities who fit their characters. Though the original had more focus than this does thanks to a side plot involving infant birds (voiced by Nicole Kidman’s children) saving their unborn siblings from numerous dangers. Obviously taking a page from Scrat’s intermissions from Ice Age and barely serving a purpose beyond a loosely tethered solution. Meanwhile most of the characters boil down to trying to be the stand out comic relief in an ocean of competition. Hints of Red’s insecurities pop up here and there, but don’t expect any Pixar level psychological insight. The story and characters are what they are for a video game movie. And given the low standard, this goes the extra mile to at least keep you laughing.
If only it didn’t have to rely on celebrity baiting to attract crowds cause every major star, outside the main birds and pigs, are barely given any dialogue that’s not used as a punchline. It wouldn’t be a problem if they didn’t share the headlining credits with Leslie Jones, but they were displayed in big bold green letters. So what’s the point of displaying their names if they get as many lines as Sean Penn’s grunts as Terrance? Many talented voice actors like Tara Strong and Rob Paulsen live to bring life to characters that no celebrity can mimic. Even Gravity Falls creator, Alex Hirsh, gets a cameo, but that’s table scraps compared to how much Awkwafina and Stirling K Brown have to work with.
Of course it wouldn’t be Angry Birds unless the animation was able to stand out from its contemporaries. Which isn’t hard since everything’s striving to be as realistic as possible (*Cough* Lion King *Cough*) while forgetting that animation is about using new styles and techniques. No other animated feature this year has this level of unique experimentation with character designs and movement. The speed fluctuates every second at the right moments, but there’s still a grounded realism in the details such as feathers, snow and other earthly elements. Director Thurop Van Orman (The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack) really knows how to combine unique animation with creatively well timed scenarios that makes this the best video game movie to hit the silver screen.
The Angry Birds Movie 2 is a solidly entertaining distraction at worst, but a fun matinee for the family at best. Many of the jokes feel fresh since the puns have been traded in for pinpoint slapstick, the animation is the kind that should be experimented with without the restraint of hyper realism, and the story is still accessible to those who haven’t played the game. Who’d have thought that a video game movie could sustain its quality by straying from its roots? Now concerning which one is better, it’s hard to say cause they both improve on what the other lacks. Then again, we’re talking about video game movies, so why not have a double feature as the prime example that future projects can build upon.
Pros: Pinpoint slapstick, incredible voice acting, expressive animation,
Cons: Celebrity baiting, distracting side-plot, interchangeable characters
If there’s any other reason to see this in theaters, it’s to witness a Kickstarter campaign carry on the tradition of shorts before a main feature. Created by Matthew A. Cherry and co-directed by Disney alumni, Bruce W. Smith (The Proud Family). This exploration of a father trying to connect with his daughter in hair styling brings out so many emotions in 5 minutes that it would be a crime for this to be snubbed as one of the best animated shorts of 2019. With brilliantly fluid 2D animation taking on a water color aesthetic, it also ignites the hopes that maybe we can see more of this style fleshed out to feature length.