Movie review: Zany ‘Angry Birds Movie 2’ is a crash course in sophisticated slapstick
Forget everything you know about ‘Angry Birds’ (including that first movie). The sequel is laugh-out-loud funny.
“THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE 2” — 3 stars — Jason Sudeikis, Leslie Jones, Rachel Bloom, Josh Gad, Bill Hader, Danny McBride, Peter Dinklage, Tiffany Haddish, Awkwafina; PG (rude humor and action); in general release; running time: 96 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — “Three umbrellas in one drink? What kind of extravagant lunatic are we dealing with?”
The good guys in “The Angry Birds Movie 2” — a coalition of formerly-feuding birds and pigs — pose the question when looking at Zeta, a tropical eagle who wants to turn their islands into her own personal paradise. Yes, Zeta really is an extravagant lunatic. She’s crazed and conniving, ever teetering on the brink of collapse. But she’s also whip-smart and deeply, surprisingly relatable.
Same goes for “The Angry Birds Movie 2,” an extravagant lunatic of a film. Its manic pace and nearly constant slapstick will leave your head spinning. Beneath this frenzy, though, is a tight script with sophisticated, economical storytelling. If you’re seeing this movie with kids, “The Angry Birds Movie 2” will more than keep their attention while still entertaining the adults in the room.
The first “Angry Birds Movie” made a lot of money — more than $300 million in theaters worldwide — despite a poor critical response, so maybe this sequel didn’t need to be, you know, objectively good to succeed commercially. But hey, it actually is good.
Jason Sudeikis (Red) leads a lively cast that includes returning players Josh Gad (Chuck), Bill Hader (Leonard), Danny McBride (Bomb) and Peter Dinklage (Mighty Eagle), as well as newcomers Awkwafina (Courtney), Tiffany Haddish (Debbie), Rachel Bloom (Silver) and Leslie Jones (Zeta). Some of these characters (Bomb, Mighty Eagle) are less funny than others. Even Red, the film’s main character, feels less charming than he probably should be given Sudeikis’ usual mastery of one-liners. In truth, everyone pales to Leslie Jones as Zeta. Her performance is so full of life, so razor-sharp, that Zeta’s humanity leaps off the screen. Zeta truly feels like a real person, even as she’s launching gigantic, deadly balls of ice at innocent pigs and birds.
At the film’s beginning, we see the rival communities of Bird Island and Pig Island engaged in low-stakes warfare with each other. Shots are fired between islands, but their inhabitants remained unscathed. Red, the outcast-turned-hero of the first film, is now revered on Bird Island. He, Bomb and Chuck continue protecting their home from minor threats while Red basks in his newfound fame.
Meanwhile, a gargantuan ball of ice careens into Pig Island. The birds didn’t send it, though. Where, exactly, did this cold harbinger of doom originate? The pigs and birds reach a tentative truce to investigate.
They’re shocked to discover an ice-covered third island, populated by eagles, that’s behind the attack. Zeta rules the frozen island with an iron fist — er, wing — and she’s determined to live her tropical dreams no matter the cost. A towering ice canon juts into the sky from beneath the island’s surface. (Zeta doesn’t do subtlety.)
Red and his squad recruit Chuck’s sister, a math wiz named Silver, and she quickly becomes the only hope for an otherwise clueless team. But Red, who’s terrified of his own obsolescence, won’t defer. He really, really, really doesn’t want to be (cue Eric Carmen’s power ballad) “all byyyyyy myself.” This is the first of many musical gags. From Paula Cole’s “I Don’t Want to Wait” to Lionel Richie’s “Hello,” the movie spoon-feeds these moments with a hilariously heavy hand. When these jokes are good — and about 80% percent of the time, they are — they’re really good.
Director Thurop Van Orman, who previously worked on Cartoon Network projects such as “The Powerpuff Girls,” “Adventure Time” and “The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack,” makes his feature film debut in “The Angry Birds Movie 2.” His madcap sensibilities shine through here, particularly in zany, high-energy characters like Chuck.
Van Orman is also an expert storyteller, and his influence manifests in the script, which dispenses constant humor while always advancing the plot. (It also deftly weaves in a charming secondary plot involving some adorable hatchlings.) The movie’s central themes — the importance of collaboration, the duality of pride and insecurity — aren’t buried by the constant physical humor. Granted, this emotional core isn’t milked for all its worth — no tearjerking existential drama like you’d get from a Pixar movie — but given this movie’s style and relative breeziness, it’s possible that’s a good thing.
Rating explained: “The Angry Birds Movie 2” is rated PG for rude humor and action.