Skip to main content

I’m telling you, something isn’t kosher with these pigs.

The Angry Birds Movie
(2016)

(SPOILERS) The Angry Birds Movie is a much better Angry Birds movie before it tries to approximate the to-and-fro thrust of the uber-popular app. That is, before it brings out the catapults.


When it’s concentrating on the ornery Red (a surprisingly strong vocal performance from Jason Sudekis) and his reluctant attendance of anger management classes, along with wild-eyed, fast-walking duck Chuck (Josh Gad, the poor comfortably-sized man’s Jack Black) and explosive bird Bomb (Danny McBride), the generally caustic, disdainful tone works pretty well. There’s also an effective vocal cameo, surely inspired by South Park’s casting of George Clooney as a dog, from Sean Penn as an angry bird (obviously, Sean knows his angry) who only grunts. And Keegan-Michael Key is good value as Judge Peckinpah, an owl oblivious to Red’s protestations of danger from the arriving pigs.


Unfortunately, once those pigs show up, led by Bill Hader’s Leonard, the movie settles into a generic hero’s narrative, with only rare attention-diverting interludes. Mighty Eagle’s arrival is signposted by a stream of urine, as he pisses into “the Lake of Wisdom” for an eternity (so this is the new standard for kids’ movies: jokes that would once have been at home in The Naked Gun are now deemed U certificate: there’s also a 50 Shades of Green poster, boob gags, and ones about indecent pig nudity and paedophilia). He’s also a peeping Tom, so bestowing strong family values on the little ones. And there’s a stream of one-liners too, hit and miss, but some raise a chuckle (“I’m telling you, something isn’t kosher with these pigs”).


The first 40 minutes work as well as they do due to Sudekis’ sardonic distaste for the birds’ island life, making the general medley palatable. By the conclusion, he has become toothless, making firm pals with his formerly-angry peers and inviting them into his newly-built house (his first progressively demolished by the ships of pigs arriving on the beach).


While the design of the movie is mostly of a piece with CGI animations are the world over, there’s the occasional nice touch, such as Red’s destruction of a “Be Happy” signage that looks like something out of Ren & Stimpy, and the faux-traditionally-animated regaling of the exploits of Mighty Eagle (Peter Dinklage), a legend amongst the bird populace.


Some have suggested that the influx of pigs is meant to represent the refugee crisis, others the threat of Islam to America (with an American Eagle overseeing the birds’ island). If that was the case, one would have to assume Rovio/Sony were being deliberately provocative (in their choice of animal for antagonist). I have to admit, Leonard’s beard made me think Amish, while the hi-tech society of green pigs (green for envy) arriving on a foreign shore to steal eggs (oil) could be interpreted as exactly the reverse interpretation (and the birds’ eventual response, well…).


This Sony production is definitely looking to DreamWorks for its formula, rather than upwards(ish) to Pixar, hence the liberal sprinkling of pop tunes amid the adult humour. Some of these work, others are simply coasting (Sound of da Police is the high point, Never Gonna Give You Up amusing, Black Sabbath’s Paranoid… worrying). The Angry Birds Movie made more than enough to guarantee a sequel, but it may well end up a Smurfs case (also Sony) of a one hit not-quite-wonder before boredom sets in. If this had been made four years ago, it would probably have been guaranteed a half billion plus at the box office, but the brand has rather passed its peak. Or beak (justified, I would argue, as it’s about the standard of the gags here).


Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

My name is Dr. King Schultz, this is my valet, Django, and these are our horses, Fritz, and Tony.

Django Unchained (2012)
(MINOR SPOILERS) Since the painful misstep of Grindhouse/Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino has regained the higher ground like never before. Pulp Fiction, his previous commercial and critical peak, has been at very least equalled by the back-to-back hits of Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. Having been underwhelmed by his post Pulp Fiction efforts (albeit, I admired his technical advances as a director in Kill Bill), I was pleasantly surprised by Inglourious Basterds. It was no work of genius (so not Pulp Fiction) by any means, but there was a gleeful irreverence in its treatment of history and even to the nominal heroic status of its titular protagonists. Tonally, it was a good fit for the director’s “cool” aesthetic. As a purveyor of postmodern pastiche, where the surface level is the subtext, in some ways he was operating at his zenith. Django Unchained is a retreat from that position, the director caught in the tug between his all-important aesthetic pr…

Whoever comes, I'll kill them. I'll kill them all.

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
(SPOILERS) There’s no guessing he’s back. John Wick’s return is most definite and demonstrable, in a sequel that does what sequels ought in all the right ways, upping the ante while never losing sight of the ingredients that made the original so formidable. John Wick: Chapter 2 finds the minimalist, stripped-back vehicle and character of the first instalment furnished with an elaborate colour palette and even more idiosyncrasies around the fringes, rather like Mad Max in that sense, and director Chad Stahleski (this time without the collaboration of David Leitch, but to no discernible deficit) ensures the action is filled to overflowing, but with an even stronger narrative drive that makes the most of changes of gear, scenery and motivation.

The result is a giddily hilarious, edge-of-the-seat thrill ride (don’t believe The New York Times review: it is not “altogether more solemn” I can only guess Jeannette Catsoulis didn’t revisit the original in the interven…

No time to dilly-dally, Mr Wick.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019)
(SPOILERS) At one point during John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum, our eponymous hero announces he needs “Guns, lots of guns” in a knowing nod to Keanu Reeves’ other non-Bill & Ted franchise. It’s a cute moment, but it also points to the manner in which the picture, enormous fun as it undoubtedly is, is a slight step down for a franchise previously determined to outdo itself, giving way instead to something more self-conscious, less urgent and slightly fractured.

Isn’t Johnnie simply too fantastic for words?

Suspicion (1941)
(SPOILERS) Suspicion found Alfred Hitchcock basking in the warm glow of Rebecca’s Best Picture Oscar victory the previous year (for which he received his first of five Best Director nominations, famously winning none of them). Not only that, another of his films, Foreign Correspondent, had jostled with Rebecca for attention. Suspicion was duly nominated itself, something that seems less unlikely now we’ve returned to as many as ten award nominees annually (numbers wouldn’t be reduced to five until 1945). And still more plausible, in and of itself, than his later and final Best Picture nod, Spellbound. Suspicion has a number of claims to eminent status, not least the casting of Cary Grant, if not quite against type, then playing on his charm as a duplicitous quality, but it ultimately falls at the hurdle of studio-mandated compromise.

She worshipped that pig. And now she's become him.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web (2018)
(SPOILERS) Choosing to make The Girl in the Spider’s Web following the failure of the David Fincher film – well, not a failure per se, but like Blade Runner 2049, it simply cost far too much to justify its inevitably limited returns – was a very bizarre decision on MGM’s part. A decision to reboot, with a different cast, having no frame of reference for the rest of the trilogy unless you checked out the Swedish movies (or read the books, but who does that?); someone actually thought this would possibly do well? Evidently the same execs churning out desperately flailing remakes based on their back catalogue of IPs (Ben-Hur, The Magnificent Seven, Death Wish, Tomb Raider); occasionally there’s creative flair amid the dross (Creed, A Star is Born), but otherwise, it’s the most transparently creatively bankrupt studio there is.

I mean, I think anybody who looked at Fred, looked at somebody that they couldn't compare with anybody else.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (2018) 
(SPOILERS) I did, of course, know who Fred Rogers was, despite being British. Or rather, I knew his sublimely docile greeting song. How? The ‘Burbs, naturally. I was surprised, given the seeming unanimous praise it was receiving (and the boffo doco box office) that Won’t You Be My Neighbor? didn’t garner a Best Documentary Oscar nod, but now I think I can understand why. It’s as immensely likeable as Mr Rogers himself, yet it doesn’t feel very substantial.

I think, I ruminate, I plan.

The Avengers 6.5: Get-A-Way
Another very SF story, and another that recalls earlier stories, in this case 5.5: The See-Through Man, in which Steed states baldly “I don’t believe in invisible men”. He was right in that case, but he’d have to eat his bowler here. Or half of it, anyway. The intrigue of Get-A-Way derives from the question of how it is that Eastern Bloc spies have escaped incarceration, since it isn’t immediately announced that a “magic potion” is responsible. And if that reveal isn’t terribly convincing, Peter Bowles makes the most of his latest guest spot as Steed’s self-appointed nemesis Ezdorf.

Our very strength incites challenge. Challenge incites conflict. And conflict... breeds catastrophe.

The MCU Ranked Worst to Best

Do you read Sutter Cane?

In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
(SPOILERS) The concluding chapter of John Carpenter’s unofficial Apocalypse Trilogy (preceded by The Thing and Prince of Darkness) is also, sadly, his last great movie. Indeed, it stands apart in the qualitative wilderness that beset him during the ‘90s (not for want of output). Michael De Luca’s screenplay had been doing the rounds since the ‘80s, even turned down by Carpenter at one point, and it proves ideal fodder for the director, bringing out the best in him. Even cinematographer Gary K Kibbe seems inspired enough to rise to the occasion. It could do without the chugging rawk soundtrack, perhaps, but then, that was increasingly where Carpenter’s interests resided (as opposed to making decent movies).