There’s really only so much you can expect from a film like The Angry Birds Movie 2, an ungainly title for an ungainly project. A movie based on a smartphone game has beget a sequel, both of which had to come up with characters and stories to varying success. What this movie does well has little to do with its story or even its built-in logic, or lack thereof. There’s a Looney Tunes-esque madcap streak to parts of Angry Birds 2, even more so than its 2016 predecessor, that inspires some welcome and unexpected laughs amidst an otherwise tolerable if not terribly groundbreaking adventure story.
After the events of the first film — where the eponymously grumpy avians fended off a group of nasty green pigs — our hero Red (voiced by Jason Sudeikis) enjoys his daily regimen of meeting and returning pranks from Pig Island. He loves it so much, in fact, that he’s intensely depressed when the pigs offer a truce. That is, until, Red realizes the truce is so the pigs can team up with the birds to take on a bigger threat, from a mysterious frozen island whose leader is trying to destroy both their homes.
There are two different emotional undercurrents in The Angry Birds Movie 2, and the inherent silliness of that concept is part of the problem. Red struggles with a kind of existential despair — if he can’t be angry and fighting the pigs, what’s the point? And one of the new characters, a scientifically minded bird named Silver (Rachel Bloom), struggles to be noticed for her accomplishments even though her intelligence is off the charts. Unfortunately, neither of these plots really resonate, in part because Pixar got there first. The concept of characters unsure of their place in the world is a strong part of the Toy Story franchise, and an engineering-inspired young woman being welcomed as a hero is a big part of Cars 3. (In the latter case, as in Cars 3, that journey is largely focused on the male character realizing it’s time to step back, instead of the woman actually being the hero, which would be a lot more fun.)
When Angry Birds 2 ignores these emotional subplots, the movie is doofy and weird and charming, for the most part. Some of the original cast members have returned, such as Sudeikis, Bill Hader, and Josh Gad, but the liveliness is often provided by newer cast members like Bloom, Leslie Jones (as the villain), and Tiffany Haddish. (Haddish has now appeared in three separate animated films in 2019: The Lego Movie 2, The Secret Life of Pets 2, and The Angry Birds Movie 2. It’s a trend.) Really, the plot and characters are less interesting than the colorful setpieces that director Thurop Van Orman and his crew are able to construct, either around or within one of a ridiculously high number of needle-drops of recognizable music. (There are 15, if you’re counting. I was.)
The charms of a film like The Angry Birds Movie 2 is in its general untethered nature to real-world logic. Other family-film fare from this summer, such as the aforementioned Toy Story 4 or The Secret Life of Pets 2, ostensibly takes place in the “real world” so there’s not a lot that the characters can do that doesn’t feel inherently ridiculous. The advantage of this film is that, for better or worse, there’s only so much logic you can ascribe to the battle between birds and pigs, some of whom have special powers because…well, just because. So while the emotional stuff falls flat, the manic pacing, goofy visual gags, and verbal humor stays on the right side of funny. There are a number of toilet jokes — and more shots of characters’ backsides than you ever needed to see — that feel deliberately designed to make little kids, and only little kids, laugh. But then Jones lets loose with a monologue about how she’s worth her selfish crusade, or you hear Peter Dinklage sing the song that became the “Dawson’s Creek” theme (because why not), and it’s hard not to smile.
In a summer with Toy Story 4, The Angry Birds Movie 2 cannot hope to compete for the title of best animated film of the season. But in a summer that also features The Lion King (which may not look it, but is just as computer animated) and The Secret Life of Pets 2, this serves as at least a decent capper to a rough few months. It’s a few steps above its more obnoxious predecessor, and the jokes feel more indebted to the work of Chuck Jones than you can find in most modern animated films. The best that can truly be said for this film is that, for the parents in the crowd (a demographic in which I include myself), it’s tolerable as opposed to eye-rollingly bad. It’s a low bar, but one the film clears.
/Film Rating: 5 out of 10
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