Review – Do the filmmakers flip you the bird? (“The Angry Birds Movie”)

I confess, I’m a huge fan of Angry Birds the game. On my cellphone I have no less than seven Angry Birds apps. Yes, I’m addicted. That being said, I was oddly fascinated and extremely giddy that an animated feature film was coming out based on my favorite mobile app… AND made by the same guys that did Hotel Transylvania and Arthur Christmas? Yessssss!!!

If you’ve never played the game before (and what’s wrong with you if you haven’t), it’s about some very rude and evil green pigs that steal eggs from a population of oddly shaped and strangely powered birds who try to get them back. They launch themselves at the pigs using a huge sling-shot, but the swine hide in some building or structure just to piss-off the birds and to make their lives more difficult, hence the anger portion of the game

The movie version is handled this way: on Bird Island, all the flightless birds there live an idyllic life, going to work, shopping at the Apple Store (one of many, many ‘bird’ related puns), and raising their egg-babies. Everyone there is happy… except for Red (voiced by Jason Sudeikis). He’s a sarcastic sociopathic bird with no internal filter who lives by the beach away from the others. After a disastrous birthday party incident, he’s sentenced to an anger management class taught by perky Matilda (Maya Rudolph). Also in the class is Chuck (Josh Gad), a mischievous lightning-fast (think Quicksilver from the last X-Men movie) yellow bird, Bomb (Danny McBride) a large round bird who explodes when upset, and gigantic Terrence (grunted by Sean Penn

But these buddies-to-be will have to put their differences aside when a very strange boat arrives carrying several green pigs from unknown Piggy Island. The leader, a large, bearded, and pompous porker named Leonard (Bill Hader) greets the birds with words of friendship and wows them with amazing things like trampolines, giant sling-shots, and TNT. The birds are completely taken in by this shady, slick-tongued swine and all his goofy piggy minions. All, that is, except Red. He sees past their smokescreen and knows they’re up to no good. Problem is, nobody will listen to him! What to do? Seek out the  island’s legendary hero, Mighty Eagle (Peter Dinklage

So Red, Chuck, and Bomb go on a quest to find the myth in the mountains for help, but find out (much to their horror) that Mighty Eagle is a slovenly, egotistical nut-job with delusions of grandeur. Well, so much for getting help from the hero they used to worship. Things go from bad to worse when the pigs reveal their diabolical plans: steal all the eggs in a bold display of explosions and callous disregard for the innocent! As the pigs take off in their ships, Red rallies his fellow birds to get angry and pursue the swine to take back their eggs

The third act is where, if you’ve played the app game, you’ll recognize the scenario. Once the birds reach Piggy Island, they use the huge sling-shot to catapult themselves, destroying the pigs buildings one by one, eventually getting to the main castle and their cache of eggs. But after the sling-shot breaks (oh no!), it’s up to our heroes (with some unexpected help) to save the day

Written by Simpsons veteran Jon Vitti, the puns, jokes, and double-entendres come fast and furious and, while they don’t always hit, they sure are funny when they do. Give credit to Sudeikis as the voice of Red; his verbal sarcasm and wit are the highlight of the movie. And you want visual puns? There are a TON of them! Taking a game app and spinning into a full-length movie is a ridiculous idea, to be sure, but this movie is actually quite funny and not just aimed at kids. The CG animation is clean and crisp, the storyline arc has a purpose (although over-used), and the characters are fun and likable. Even though I am a  fan of the game, I enjoyed the movie despite all that

Then you have the terrific direction. You could not have better than Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly, both of whom have impressive credits under their collective belts. Clay with his Frozen, Tangled, and Wreck-it Ralph animation background and Fergal with his Hotel Transylvania and Cloudy/Meatballs storyboards. Both are brand new directors here, but show that years of experience can yield excellent results

Mars Attacks! (1996)

Leave it to Tim Burton to come up with a super-weird movie like this one. Either you hate it or you love it, take your pick. Based on (are you ready for this?) the 1962 Topps trading cards that depicted a strange alien race coming here in “peace” and then double-crossing us, this movie is cinematic eye-candy for it’s ingenious CGI alien creature effects.

Boasting a stellar cast that must’ve seen something in Jonathan Gems very strange screenplay, Burton weaves his usual odd direction into a story about hundreds of Martian ships arriving on Earth. These ships (looking like Ray Harryhausen’s UFO’s from his Earth vs the Flying Saucers movie–a nice nod to the master) hold a race of the weirdest, greenest, big-headed, bug-eyed creatures that ever walked the Earth. They squawk like a duck on crack, but President Jim Dale (Jack Nicholson) and his wife (Glenn Close) welcome them after egocentric scientist Professor Kessler (Pierce Brosnan) says their squawking means “I come in peace”, thanks to his universal translator machine.

But his machine is wrong! They really mean to colonize our planet! At a reception for their arrival, these creatures slaughter a bunch of people with their ray-guns and war on the Martians is declared. Oh, and did I mention this is a comedy? They start their invasion with Las Vegas where we see such eclectic characters like shady real estate dealer Art Land (Nicholson again), his loopy wife (Annette Bening), a gambler (Danny DeVito), a vivacious talk show host (Sarah Jessica Parker), a news reporter (Michael J. Fox), and a Press Secretary (Martin Short). You also have other stars in this as well, like Rod Steiger, Christina Applegate, Pam Grier, Jack Black, and more that pop-up for bit parts.  

In the midst of all this chaos and killing, there’s hope on two fronts: casino bouncer/former boxer Byron Williams (Jim Brown) and singer Tom Jones try to usher as many people to safety from the casino to a small airplane hanger while Richie, a not-so-bright kid (Lukas Haas) discovers that playing the yodeling part of Slim Whitman’s song, Indian Love Call, will cause the aliens heads to explode! It’s quite the sight when he tells the President’s daughter (Natalie Portman) this info and then see the entire Armed Forces attacking the aliens with music blaring as the alien heads explode!

While it bombed at the box office here, it did great overseas. It seemed Europe and the Orient really liked the quirkiness of the film and all the star-power it had to offer. It shouldn’t be a wonder why this movie failed, as there were twelve rejected drafts of the script by Gems, and Burton ended up re-writing most of it anyway. One can only wonder what the other drafts looked like and if they were any better than Burton’s finished product

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