By Jack Dignan
Warcraft, Assassin's Creed and The Angry Birds Movie. These are the three noteworthy video game movies being released in 2016, and for many, many years now, video game movies have been known to be terrible. They have the opposite of a good reputation, and because of that, I was hesitant about all of these, with the exception of Assassin's Creed. So, I sat down yesterday with unknown expectations, my mind open and willing to see how the movie turned out, and believe it or not, but I had an absolute blast with this film. 2016 could be the start of good video game movies, and I really hope this trend continues.
Based on the best selling app, The Angry Birds Movie follows the story of Red (Jason Sudeikis), an angry and friendless bird who, after a mishap at his job, is sent to anger management class, led by a bird named Matilda (Maya Rudolph). Also in his class is Chuck (Josh Gad), a super fast bird, Bomb (Danny McBride), a bird who blows up when they're angry, and Terence (Sean Penn), a massive bird who does nothing but grunt. Soon, a boat full of pigs arrives on their island, led by Leonard (Bill Hader), and these pigs have the whole town swooning, the town letting them do just about anything they want. Red, however, sees past what they're doing, teaming up with Chuck and Bomb to stop their evil plans since nobody else realises what's going on.
Because of the simplicity of the game, The Angry Birds Movie has a lot of freedom in terms of storytelling. The game, for those unaware, has you using a slingshot to throw flight-less birds into a pig-built area to destroy the pigs and take back the eggs they've stolen. It's a simple game, each of the birds having different abilities, and translating it onto screen allows for a lot of flexibility. They're not restraint in the way they can tell their story, so long as they follow the basic fundamentals of the game, and that they do. The story is fast, frothing with energy and a lot of fun to watch.
The characters are so distinctly different, their abilities crystal clear, and this allows for the film to go in all different directions, bringing with it a lot of fresh and original humour. While the initial two trailers advertised this film as having a lot of kid-friendly seen-it-before humour, the film itself is far from it. Most of the great kids movies have thematic elements or moments of humour that will appeal to older audiences as well, and to my surprise, there's plenty of jokes in this film that had me in hysterics. These characters just bounce around with each, and their individual dynamics make for constant entertainment.
Adding dimension to these characters are the actors that play them, and with a cast like this, it always had me curious about the movie. I didn't mind the first trailer, but the second trailer wasn't all that good. The thing that maintained my interest in the film, besides the fact that I was addicted to this game when it first came out, was how talented the voice cast was. From Bill Hader to Josh Gad to Danny McBride, everyone here does a fantastic job, and I'd just like to take a moment to appreciate that they cast Sean Penn in a role that requires him to do nothing but grunt for the entire movie. It's glorious.
The Angry Birds Movie is a big leap forward for video game movies, and the animation and soundtrack were as great as ever. It's not thematically deep like a Disney or Pixar movie and not every single joke works, but the stuff that works worked really well, and it does end up being a family friendly movie that's certainly worth taking the family to. There's so much about this film that surprised me, and it still had me laughing just thinking about it hours after watching it. 2016 is the start of a new era for video game movies. Soon, video game movies won't be seen as a joke. They'll be seen as quality cinema.
To sum up, The Angry Birds Movie uses the simpleness of the game it's based on to deliver a fun, fresh and hilarious animated movie that delivers way more than the trailers promoted. It's the start of the video game movie era, and with so many being planned, my faith in them is starting to grow.
3 1/2 Stars