Blu-ray Review: Angry Birds

Movies based on video games already have a hard time making the conversion to the silver screen, as it’s next to impossible to fully capture the immersion a player feels when controlling a character, and also having to cram the hours and hours of gameplay into a two hour movie. So it can only work to Hollywood’s advantage when a studio takes a game that has a paper-thin storyline and no captivating characters whatsoever and decides to turn it into a movie, right? I mean, you pretty much have a blank creative slate, plus the already built in fan base, so what could go wrong? Turns out, quite a bit.

Angry Birds is based off the hugely popular app where you strategically launch various types of birds into structures that contain pigs. You basically want to knock down these walls and towers using the birds, and thus destroying the pigs in the process. Oh, and the pigs are trying to steal the eggs of all these birds, which is pretty much why the birds are angry enough to go on these crazy kamikaze missions in the first place.

So that’s also basically the story they go with for the movie as well, and while I’ll admit to having played and enjoyed the app a while back, it wasn’t really something I ever envisioned as a movie – but then again, neither was Battleship. The problem is, you need more story to fill 90-minutes, and when it comes to Angry Birds, things feel fairly forced and unfocused, with jokes that fall flat more often than they hit the mark.

The star of the film is Red (voiced by Jason Sudeikis), who is the main red bird players of the app use in the game. He lives on an island with a bunch of other always happy-go-lucky birds who are all unable to fly. Their island is their world, and as far as they believe, there’s nothing else out there beyond it. So they’re all just happy to be alive, doing their thing day in and day out.

But one day Red snaps, gets angry and is sentenced to anger management – which is a pretty odd thing to have on an island where anger isn’t really supposed to exist. So Red attends the class and meets Chuck (voiced by Josh Gad) and Bomb (Danny McBride), who have been sentenced to the class less because of anger issues, and more because of, well, Bomb kind of explodes when he gets startled and Chuck is basically an animated version of X-Men’s Quicksilver – right down to the slow motion action sequence. Oh, and there’s also Terence, who’s a giant, thug of a bird who doesn’t do anything but grunt threateningly and is voiced by Sean Penn…well, his grunts are provided by Sean Penn.

The main issue with Red is that it’s unclear what his motivations are throughout the story. He’s always been more of a loner, was picked on as a kid and is short tempered to a degree; however, when he’s stopped at a crosswalk and has to wait for dozens of chicks to cross, only to be stopped again without being able to move because an elderly bird has slowly – and we’re talking slowly – begun to make her way through the crosswalk, he’s oddly patient. I mean, it irks him, but you’d expect him to blow his lid, and yet, he doesn’t.

No, Red is remarkably good at bottling up his anger, or taking deep breaths and releasing it calmly. In short, he’s pretty normal. And yet, it’s made clear that he’s made himself an outcast by building his home on the beach, outside of the village, and that other birds may smile and wave at him when he’s around, but when he’s not, they don’t think too highly of him.

So as a viewer, it’s hard to really understand why Red decided to move away from everyone, and why it is that everyone else thinks he’s a jerk, when really, he’s pretty calm. And if it had to do with his being teased growing up, wouldn’t that make everyone else jerks and Red is just misunderstood? It’s just confusing, because when the pigs arrive on a boat out of nowhere, and their leader Leonard (Bill Hader) starts deceiving everyone, only Red’s cynical self can see through him and yet everyone ignores his warnings.

Now Angry Birds feels like it’s trying to be is a redemption story about a bird that separates himself from society, only to realize he needs them as much as they end up needing him, and yet it fails because it never allows Red to go 100% to the dark side. I mean, you don’t want him to be despicable to the viewer; but you do want him to be someone we think others would ignore warnings from. That they’d think was so much of a jerk, that why would they ever listen to him when these pigs are so happy and so fun? His character needs to feel as though it needs redeeming by helping those around him, even though he’s shunned them and vice-versa; however, the whole idea is just kind of dropped by the time the pigs show up, and Red just takes on a hero role regardless.

And when the pigs do turn on the birds and steal their eggs – which shouldn’t really be a shocker, as that’s literally the only iota of storyline the app has – the movie all but turns into a 30-minute level on the app, with bird after bird launching themselves through structures on pig island in a valiant attempt to rescue their children.

Now the great thing that most animated films accomplish these days is nailing that perfect balance at being as entertaining for adults as they are for kids. Now it’s hard to say whether or not kids would enjoy the movie, as it does have bright colours and some slapstick comedy sprinkled throughout; however, when the eggs are taken, the birds all get pretty blunt that it’s their children that have been kidnapped and are about to be eaten by pigs. Now, I’m not sure how dark that is in comparison to, say, Ursela stealing the Little Mermaid’s voice, attempting to steal her man, only to be impaled and killed by the front end of a ship being steered by that same Prince she tried to seduce…but it’s still pretty heavy.

As an adult, the jokes are too rehashed and simple to ever amount to anything overly memorable. It’s not that there aren’t funny moments, as I actually laughed out loud a few times throughout; it’s just that this isn’t a movie that you’ll be chuckling about hours later, or wanting to revisit a year down the road. And jokes aside, there’s just not enough substance in the material, and the overall story is incoherent and just lacking as a whole.

Angry Birds did well at the box office, and if your kids are aching for something new to watch and you’re running out of options, this will do in a pinch. It’s not terrible, but it’s also nothing above average. It’s one that you may watch once alongside them, but will just have on in the background any time that follows – if there is a time that follows.

The movie does look great on Blu-ray, with beautifully bright colours, and a sharp conversion as far as images go. On the audio front, the soundtrack, sound effects, score and dialogue all come together harmoniously.

On the special features front we’ve got a lot of ground to cover in small doses, so lets get started!

First up there are the Hatchlings! animated shorts that focus on the cute little hatchlings. There are five shorts here that add up to just over five minutes in length. The five shorts are: Early Hatchling Gets the Worm (2:06), Easter (1:17), Mother’s Day (1:00), Holiday (1:02) and finally, Meet the Hatchlings (4:11).

Angry Birds Action! How to Sync – is an ad for a new Angry Birds game and how to sync it up with the movie.

Deleted Scenes – These add up to roughly six minutes, and if you enjoyed the movie it can’t hurt to check them out to get a little bit more out of it.

Dance Along Birds and Pigs – To make the pigs less threatening, even after all is said and done they bust a move during the credits, so here’s some more dancing that I’m sure younger kids will enjoy moving along to.

Crafty Birds – This is an arts and crafts featurette that shows you how you can make your very own Angry Birds game at home with odds and ends from around your house.

Creating the Real World of Angry Birds This is the second longest featurette at about eight and a half minutes, which sees Jason Sudeikis and Josh Gad introduce a making of piece that shows the work that went into creating the full and lively world out of what was essentially a fairly generic app.

Bubbles and Hal – This is another quick minute and a half featurette about Bubbles, and his desire – or lackthere of, when it comes to being an angry bird.

Meet the Birds – The longest featurette on the disc comes in at just over 10 minutes in length, and it introduces the characters of the film, and the voice actors that play them. It also takes a look at the animation that went into the film, as well as some of the voice acting behind it.

Meet the Pigs – Like the above, but this one focuses on the pigs and those who played them.

Making music with Composer Heitor Pereira – It’s fun to see music done from this aspect, as Pereira hosts this featurette and performs various music from the film. Easily one of the highlights on the disc.

In-Theater Policy Trailers – There are three shorts that see the birds go to the movies. The three shorts are: A Gift Card for Chuck (1:00), Join Your Friends (1:10), and Silence Your Birdphone (0:48.)

Symphony Mode – This allows you to watch the film without any voices, and just the isolated score.

Sony Pictures Presents Angry Birds. Directed by: Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly. Written by: Jon Vitti. Starring: Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Danny McBride, Sean Penn, Bill Hader, Peter Dinklage, Maya Rudolph. Running time: 97 Minutes. Rating: G. Released on Blu-ray: Aug. 16, 2016.

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