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A Movie Nerd With Kids Reviews: "The Angry Birds Movie" (2016)

The Plot at a Glance

The Angry Birds Movie will probably be wholly irrelevant by the time this post drops, but in case you're even further behind than I am: this is a movie about birds who are angry.

A red bird with thick eyebrows and an anger problem, conveniently named Red, lives on an island with a bunch of flightless birds of various shapes and sizes.  Virtually all of them besides Red lead a chipper existence, oblivious to all problems up to and including their suspicious inability to fly.

After Red has an altercation that ends with him almost crushing another bird's egg, he is ordered by local law enbirdment to go to anger management classes.  There he meets the rest of the main cast, and they fuck around for about fifteen minutes or so.

Then the actual plot begins when a ship full of green pigs anchors itself on the beach.  The pigs present themselves as friends and offer gifts, music, and a healthy heap of praise to the birds, and soon they have ingratiated themselves in bird society.  Red suspects they're up to no good, but nobody listens to him because he's an asshole.

Then, one fateful day, the pigs confirm Red's worst fears and abduct all of the birds' eggs when everybody is distracted at a dance.  The pigs return home to a remote island with a plan to feast on omelets.  Red gives a rage-inducing speech to his compatriots to extol the virtues of being angry like him, then leads an assault on the pig kingdom to get their eggs back.

This leads to the final act in which the birds use a slingshot to fling themselves at various pig buildings.  Shockingly, I've never played any version of Angry Birds before, but based on what I've absorbed from screenshots, I assume this means the movie is a loyal adaptation.  Whoopty fucking doo.

My Thoughts

On the plus side, Angry Birds is much cuter than you'd expect.  There's plenty of baby birds who make adorable chirp noises and most of the humor is grounded in harmless, albeit groan-inducing, bird puns.  Because they're birds, you see.

I also admire that the filmmakers were able to make a coherent and relatively concise story out of a video game that I have to assume had no plot.  It's a little time waster where you throw birds at pig buildings, right?  Well, good job getting 90 minutes out of that.  I mean that sincerely.

BUT... this is kind of a skeezy movie, guys.

The main problem with it is that Red's initial reaction to meeting the green pigs - a new race, which can represent whatever country / ethnicity / demographic you feel like - is baseless suspicion, paranoia, and hatred, and he ends up being proven right.  The movie boils down to the following lessons, taught back-to-back-to-back:

1) Groups of a different color (none - or at most, very few - of the birds are green) are not to be trusted.

2) Foreigners want to eat your kids.

3) The best thing to do when presented with a challenge is to get angry about it.

4) While you're at it, get all your buddies together and make a posse so you can take justice into your own hands.

I can kinda see some merit to the idea of using this as a stranger danger parable.  "Sure, a green pig with a van might say he has cool stuff inside, but you don't know that they're telling the truth."  The problem is that it isn't about one or two bad pigs doing creepy shit - it's about literally an entire race and nation being dishonest.  The green pigs are a monolith that thrive on the deception of foreign kingdoms.  There are no innocent pigs - the birds would be right to burn them all and salt the earth.  Not exactly the kind of thing you want your kids to take away.

Couldn't they at least have thrown us a bone and put some hackneyed joke where some of the greenies are protesting the omelet feast with signs that say "#notallpigs"?


My Score: 2.5 / 5

It's mostly just a dumb comedy that I didn't totally think was hilarious.  That's fine by itself.  Coulda done without the malicious politics, though.

How Did Lulabelle (2 years old) React?

She screamed at us for the first five minutes because she wanted to watch Curious George for the millionth time, but then she got into it and laughed her head off at the slapstick.

How Did Sonja (6 months old) React?

She seemed pretty invested in the bright colors.

How Did Stephanie (My Wife) React?

About the same as I did, I think.  She called it "cute," but groaned and winced at all the gross parts.

Any Useful Ethical, Educational, or Thematic Content?

No, none at all.  This is anti-educational in all senses of the term.

Trigger Warnings / Egregious Offenses?

Oh, so, so many.  There's a shitload of gross-out jokes, including at least one about a load of shit.  There's dialogue where they try to be edgy and sneak in curses or other dirty stuff as puns.  But that stuff isn't really what bothers me - that's just par for the course for dirty kid movies.  The real problem is the rampant fear-mongering and affirmation of mob justice.  That's the kind of thing that'll fuck up your kid when you're not looking.

How Likely Are You to Be Annoyed?

Let's go with 30%.  "Annoyed" isn't quite the right term for it - "put off," maybe.  Or, even better, "impatient."  Red is not a good protagonist.  His anger is only justified like a quarter of the time, and Jason Sudeikis loads his dialogue with a tad too much acid to come off as charming.  This bird is an asshole, is what I'm saying.

How Likely Are You to Cry In Front of Your Kids?

I can't give extreme scores here, so I'll go with 10%.

Final Weighted Score: 3 / 5

If you're looking for something colorful and short to distract your kids, Angry Birds will keep them occupied.  But on the other hand....

Are you guys familiar with that Patton Oswalt bit where he talks about how he feels like a shit for using TV as a babysitter?  He jokes about how he might still let his daughter watch extremely awful stuff just so he can get laundry done, thinking that maybe he can just offset it later with an off-the-cuff comment.  ("Enjoy the show, sweetie, and remember - race-mixing is okay.")  That's Angry Birds in a nutshell.

I can't say I'm comfortable letting my kids grow up watching this one right now.  It needs to be framed in the right context. I don't think most kids can grasp the subtleties of pushing for national defense while resisting xenophobia - hell, most adults can't, either.  Sure, they're just green pigs this time, but with Trump making Nazism fashionable again, who's to say what it'll be tomorrow?

Maybe let your kids watch it, but you better have some notes prepared for them.  Angry Birds is a movie that requires homework.  Who knew?