1. What is it about?
It’s about Angry Birds, duh. The movie basically gives the characters from Rovio’s best-selling mobile games a backstory. You didn’t think they needed one, did you? But have you ever asked yourself why they’re so angry? Why do some of them have special powers? Why is there a giant slingshot? Why are they trying to destroy the Piggies?
Well, welcome to Bird Island: an island populated by a multitude of colorful, flightless birds that mostly lead a blissfully ignorant – but very, very happy – existence. With no technology, no electricity – and their useless, tiny wings – the birds are completely naïve and totally unaware of the larger world around them.
But Red is different. He’s more or less an outcast (living on his own away from the village), perpetually annoyed at absolutely everything around him, and constantly lets his temper get the better of him. Which eventually lands him in anger management class, where he meets Chuck (yellow bird) and Bomb (black bird).
Then one day, a boat comes ashore, helmed by mysterious, green pigs. All of Bird Island welcomes the pigs with open arms and treats their arrival as the greatest event in history. But Red doesn’t trust them. So he recruits Chuck and Bomb to find out what’s really going on. And then it’s up to them to save…their entire civilization! (Yeah, the stakes are huge. The Piggies, as it turns out, have an appetite for eggs.)
2. Do I need to have played the Angry Birds games?
Nope. There are plenty of references and inside jokes for those who do know and play the games, but it’s not even remotely necessary. The movie tells an original story and puts all of the pieces into place for the audience. If you know the (non-franchise editions of the) games, then you’ll catch snippets of the infectious Angry Birds tune in the score, you’ll see decorative art of the original “ball of feathers” character art, and you’ll spy weapons and hints about powers before they’re “revealed” to the audience. My wife has only a passing familiarity with the games and has never played them, and she didn’t have any trouble understanding or enjoying the movie.
According to producer John Cohen, “This movie is the origin story of how the conflict came to exist between flightless birds and green piggies. It was an incredibly fun opportunity to create a mythology for the Angry Birds universe. Of course, there were certain important elements that fans know and love from the games – angry flightless birds, with special powers that people will recognize, fighting green piggies, who have stolen their eggs, using a slingshot – but beyond those ideas, we were able to create an original story.”
3. Will I like it?
I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much at a kids’ movie. And I watch a lot of kids’ movies. If I’m being honest, I went into this with fairly low expectations. I enjoyed a couple of the games, but like most of you (I’m sure), I’ve been astounded at the lasting popularity of the games and characters. I kind of can’t believe they’re still so popular.
But The Angry Birds Movie totally blew my expectations out of the water. I actually, genuinely enjoyed the heck out of this movie. Yes, many of the jokes are juvenile. But they work! The cast is darn near perfect. The animation is both faithful to the games and wholly original (and beautiful). And it even manages to deliver a heartwarming message about family, friendship, and believing in yourself.
4. Will my kids like it?
Absolutely. This is, after all, targeted to them, and it hits all of its targets. Both of my kids (4 and 7) loved it. Go and enjoy this one with the whole family.
5. Is this just an excuse to sell more games and merchandise?
Well, of course! But that doesn’t mean it can’t also be fun! And funny! And sweet! The Angry Birds Movie is obviously a merchandising vehicle, but it’s really well written with top-notch animation and acting.
6. How’s the voice cast?
The movie has an all-star cast, including Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Peter Dinklage, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader, Keegan Michael-Key, Kate McKinnon, Tony Hale, and Sean Penn (in a completely unrecognizable role). For the most part, they’re all really good, and none of them has a voice so familiar that it takes you out of the movie. The one exception to this is Josh Gad as the yellow bird Chuck, who – at times – treads much too closely to Olaf. Still, this is excusable since he’s absolutely hilarious and steals every scene he’s in, which is most of the movie. Peter Dinklage is brilliant in almost everything, and his turn as the legendary Mighty Eagle is flat-out hysterical.
7. Is there anything inappropriate for the youngest viewers?
The movie is rated PG for “rude humor and action,” and that’s about right. There are a lot of off-color jokes, but they’re all presented in the form of bird and pig puns (e.g., “What the flock is this?”) I’m not really the biggest fan of bathroom humor, but I’m a total sucker for a good pun, so many of these one-liners hit the sweet spot for me. There are a couple scenes of fairly intense action with lots of destruction and loud explosions, so if you have a child who’s sensitive to that, you should be prepared. There’s plenty of build-up to these scenes, though, so there’s more than enough warning.
8. When is a good time for a bathroom break?
The movie is only 97 minutes long, so it’s best to go right before the movie starts and stick it out to the end. The movie keeps up a brisk pace, and there’s not a lot of downtime here. Still, I know sometimes it’s unavoidable. About 1/3 of the way into the movie, Red, Chuck, and Bomb sneak onto the Piggies’ boat while everyone else is at a celebration. If you run, you won’t miss much that doesn’t become immediately obvious after you return. Another option is at about the midway point, the same trio finally makes it to the top of Eagle Mountain. As soon as Mighty Eagle makes his entrance (and the gag with the reflecting pool is over), make a dash for it. You’ll miss a bit of exposition in Mighty Eagle’s cave, but it’s nothing you won’t be able to figure out later.
9. Is the 3D worth it?
The answer to this question is almost always no. The advance screening I attended was in 2D, and I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. I’m sure there were some 3D gimmicks during the attack on Piggie Island when the birds were getting launched from the slingshot, but this sequence works just fine in 2D.
10. Do I need to stay until the end of the credits?
In what is apparently par for the course in about 80% of all kids animated movies, the beginning of the credits roll over a dance party. Stick around for one mid-credits sequence, which is pretty cute and ostensibly sets up a sequel. There’s nothing at the very end of the credits (or at least there wasn’t anything during my advance screening).
Update: It’s come to my attention that if you have the Angry Birds Action game loaded onto your phone, you may want to have it open and handy during the credits. A special level in the game – Piggy Island – is only available via “movie magic.”