Cinema Dispatch: The Angry Birds Movie 2

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The Angry Birds Movie 2 and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing

Directed by Thurop Van Orman

We only got one shot at the Super Mario Bros in the last twenty five years, yet THIS manages to get a sequel?  I actually LIKED that Mario movie, which just goes to show that Hollywood is out to get me specifically; though I can’t imagine why since I’m SUCH an agreeable and charming fellow!  Anyway, the first movie left me feeling pretty bitter so there’s not a single part of me that is looking forward to see the further adventures of Boring Red, Danny McBoom, and Fast Olaf, but sitting here dreading the darn thing isn’t gonna get us anyway, so let’s put on a brave face and try to meet this film halfway!  Can the sequel meet or perhaps even exceed the low bar that the original movie set, or is hoping for even that much just setting myself up for disappointment?  Let’s find out!!

Following the events of the first film where Red (Jason Sudeikis) became a hero to Bird Island by driving away the Pigs, the two islands are at something of a standstill with each of them pulling pranks and launching food at one another in an attempt to see which island can get the most annoyed.  Red is overjoyed by this since being the hero who fought the pigs is now his full time job as he along with Chuck and Boom (Danny McBride and Josh Gadd) spend every waking moment coming up with new schemes, retaliating against attacks, and giving speeches to the citizens of Bird Island.  That’s all about to change however as a THIRD island starts to float into the middle of the conflict which is head up by Zeta (Leslie Jones); an Eagle on an island of ice who throws ice balls at people just because she’s angry that her island is full of ice.  She could just take a vacation to one of the adjacent islands, but nope!  Massive ice balls that surely crush whatever living thing ends up beneath them!  The pigs are the first one to notice the threat and King Leonard (Bill Hader) offers a truce to the citizens of Bird Island who are all happy to finally be done with this prank war… except for Red who now has to get a real job I guess and find people who like him for reasons other than being the maroon messiah.  Well I guess if being the brave warrior who defeated the pigs isn’t cutting it anymore, than recklessly leading the charge against the eagles is the next best thing!  Along with Chuck, Boom, and King Leonard, they recruit Mighty Eagle (Peter Dinklage), Courtney the pig (Awkwafina), gadgets expert Garry (Sterling K Brown), and Chuck’s hereto unmentioned sister Silver (Rachel Bloom) to aid in their plot to destroy Zeta’s super ice weapon, but are the ready to face such a dangerous and flamboyant threat?  Can they save both islands without betraying one another or just screwing up due to their own incompetence?  Are we sure we can’t just let Zeta take over the islands?  Maybe it’s just me, but I think we should at least give her a chance!

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Say what you will about her weapons of mass refrigeration; at least she likes dogs!

Either I was a bit too hard on the first film or this one is a significant improvement because I found myself… not hating it.  I mean I guess it could ALSO be that I’ve matured a bit since the first movie came out and am less prone to get overtly snarky at middling family fare, but taking one look at my blu ray collection (you’re darn right I’m watching DOOM in HD!) probably says otherwise.  It’s not THAT different from the vague hazy memories I have of the last one, but I ended up appreciating a lot of what it does right even if the end result doesn’t amount to a whole lot.  I grew to really appreciate the art style here and intricacies of the various designs they came up with.  The world felt a bit less obnoxious and I appreciated a few of the performances, particularly Bill Hader as the Pig King and Leslie Jones as the main villain; both of whom REALLY felt like they wanted to be here and bring something to the table.  The story is still threadbare and uninteresting, a lot of the returning characters are just as bland as they were the first time around, and most of the humor is about as funny as a Luchables commercial, and yet I found myself chuckling here and there and enjoying the animation for what it was.  A sign of improvement, or proof that everything else has gotten measurably worse since the original movie came out?  YOU DECIDE!!

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Pigs and birds working together is one thing, but SNOW IN AUGUST!?  Don’t take my suspension of disbelief for granted, movie!!

One thing that usually shines through in movies made by Sony Animation is… well, the animation!  Sure there are a few stinkers in there like The Star and Goosebumps 2, but Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is truly a masterpiece for its brilliant and vibrant animation, and the trend only continued with the all-time classic Hotel Transylvania (the BEST thing Adam Sandler has ever done), Smurfs: The Lost Village, and of course Into the Spider-Verse.  I haven’t seen the first one since it came out, but I don’t remember it being QUITE as interesting to look at as this one was, and I think that’s backed up a bit by the fact that Sony Animation was not involved with that movie… despite being an animated film made by Sony.  I don’t know what’s up with that, but the point is that the movie looks pretty darn good, and just watching it whiz by and admiring the designs of each of the characters; though once again the original film rears its ugly head as the designs from the first movie aren’t nearly as good as the new ones.  The trio from the first film, Red, Chuck, and Bomb, are rather simplistic which seems to have been a concession to the game’s original designs, but Sony Animation takes the ball and run with it as the new characters are rich with details and interesting animated.   I really liked all the little mannerisms and unique elements that went into Silver’s design, and the villain Zeta looks so awesome that I want a plushie of her RIGHT NOW!  Her design is big and ostentatious, and the animators waste NONE of it with a genuine sense of authority in the way she moves, the way she interacts with others, and ESPECIALLY in her performance by Leslie Jones.  Seriously this movie looks so good and some of its characters are fun enough that it goes a long way towards making you not even realize how underwhelming everything else is!

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He’s not wrong!

Look, am I really gonna be breaking hearts out there if I say that the plot is terrible in this?  The big problem is that NONE of it is consistent and the movie is straight brazen about it; shoving into our faces just how little they care about what the story is about, what motivates the characters, and the overall pacing which is like trying to get from point A to point B but doing so in thirty different Ubers.  We’re headed towards SOME sort of conclusion, but there’s so much to distract us and so many little plot cul-de-sacs that its narrative is utterly token.  I KNOW!  You’re ALL shocked that the sequel to a nonsensical movie based on a mobile phone game can’t quite live up to Shakespeare.  It’s not like I was expecting THAT much, but they couldn’t even explain to us why the bad guys are on an ice island?  Heck, if they were gonna go with that then why aren’t the bad guys PENGUINS instead of eagles!?   That’s at least the big one that stuck out to me, but it’s all throughout the movie.  The inconsistent competency of the pigs, absolutely no progression or resolution on Chuck’s overprotective nature for his sister, the fact that Boom has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO AT ANY POINT IN THE NARRATIVE, it’s all just an endless miasma of boring plot points like Red’s insecurity and utter tripe like what Mighty Eagle’s role in the movie ended up being.  Seriously, Peter Dinklage!  How are you such a great actor yet keep finding yourself in lousy roles like this!?

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Hey, it’s still better than the ending of Game of Thrones!

A lot of that would have been helped if the humor was up to par with the animation, and while there are a few decent visual gags here and there, I just don’t think the writing is good enough to carry the lackluster plot all the way to the end.  For the most part, the big problem is that it’s so utterly sanitized for the widest possible audience that it never really has an identity of its own.  The soundtrack stood out like a sore thumb of movie clichés with such talent as David Bowie, Jimmy Buffet, Sarah McLachlan, Survivor, DJ Snake; all of which have songs that can be effective if used correctly, but here’s it’s all just mashed in there for maximum pop cultural recognition which I don’t think is as winning a strategy as the filmmakers think it is; especially when you start reaching for eighties motifs which by now are over thirty years old.  The thing is that Angry Birds SHOULD be an easy property to make a film out of, and in some respects the filmmakers realize this.  Unlike the first film, they don’t stop at one point to recreate the action from the game, so aside from a few slingshots in the early parts of the movie it has almost no connections.  From there you can do all SORTS of great things with this premise and ESPECIALLY this animation team, but what we get is just bland nonsense and overdone nostalgia beats.  It may look good doing it, but there’s no denying just how trite it all is.

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I’m feeling very seen right now, but not in a good way…

Despite all my complaining about things like “plot” and “bad humor” I’m just not feeling very down about this movie.  Not quite POSITIVE, but I found it much more enjoyable than the original film which I might have to give one more chance now that this one wore me down a bit.  I don’t recommend seeing it in theaters, even if the big screen is perfect for enjoying the animation, but where I would have said to completely avoid the first one, I’ll say this is worth checking out once it gets a home release.  Congratulations, Sony!  You’re big follow up one of the greatest animated films of all time with something that falls between a meh and an eh!  Maybe when it’s time for the next one, you can write an actual plot for it!

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