The Angry Birds Movie 2 (2019)
While Rovio Entertainment’s Angry Birds app store games may not be as popular as they once were, The Angry Birds Movie 2 soars to hilarious new heights, this follow-up (surprisingly) outdoing its 2016 predecessor.
Anyone who knows anything about Angry Birds can tell you that the titular multi-colored squawkers and scheming egg-stealing snorters have never allied in any of the various games or spinoffs — there’s an animated Angry Birds Toons (2013) TV series, too, who knew? — but this cuckoo concept really works a treat, the team-up (Birds and Pigs forced to become ‘frenemies’ in order to fight for their homelands’ survival) being the backbone of this new computer-animated family comedy. Choosing to band these rivals together could’ve maybe been proposed to debunk some of the quasi-political commentary certain moviegoers noticed in the former film, or to instill messages about unity and finding common ground, timely inclusions given today’s touchy political climate. Either way, the idea to break free from the games/ pre-existing storylines, introducing us to new characters and locations, ultimately makes for a fresher, funnier, and zanier take on the smartphone game series, one with plenty to offer both children and their sometimes grumbling parents, who (more often than not) are begrudgingly dragged along to kiddie entertainers come school holiday season.
Making an energetic directorial debut, Thurop Van Orman — creator of Cartoon Network series The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack (2008) — and co-director John Rice reintroduce us to the inhabitants of Bird Island with a loopy little sequence that see Red (voiced by Jason Sudeikis) and his two compadres, speedster Chuck (voiced by Josh Gad) and the short-fused Bomb (voiced by Danny McBride), thwart an onslaught of advancements made by pompous King Leonard (voiced by Bill Hader) and the hordes of green swine living across the sea on Piggy Island, who are still out to invade the Birds’ isle and get their hooves on their unhatched eggs — it’s more of an extravagant prank war really, with the Birds hurling hot sauce over the water and the Pigs retaliating by sending out a flotilla of airships that unload hundreds of snappish red crabs onto a bird-filled beach. This scene-setting prologue is an absolute riot!
But when the antagonistic Pigs abruptly call for an emergency truce, the perpetually cranky Red, hailed a local hero after saving the island in the previous installment, finds himself with an abundance of spare time, feeling useless and insecure. Of course, his pals Chuck and Bomb try to raise his spirits by forcing Red to attend a speed dating session, which, naturally, only gets him angrier.
Things, however, go from unexpected to just plain weird when the beaded King Leonard randomly shows up at Red’s crib, informing our directionless hero about a newly discovered third island — a remote icy landmass that’d recently begun firing ginormous glaciers out of a hollowed-out volcano-shaped superweapon, which, if left unchecked, could potentially obliterate both Piggy and Bird havens. Instead of calling for an evacuation, Red, who now feels ‘relevant’ again, decides to put together a team — made up of the most inept bunch you’re ever likely to come across (well, mostly) — to travel to this sub-zero terrain (which we quickly learn is home of the eagles) and confront the mastermind behind the barrage of assaults. And the creature leading the attacks is Eagle Island’s ice-cold ruler Zeta (voiced by Leslie Jones), a maniacal purple Philippine eagle who’s sick and tired of eating frozen meals and living on an isolated, seal infested icecap, wanting to invade the Piggy and Birdy paradises to transform them into her own private sun-drenched playgrounds.
Fun and fast-paced, Angry Birds 2 flies high thanks to its colorful animation, which is both cute and zany, and top-notch writing — the script is penned by Peter Ackerman, Ice Age (2002), and first-time screenplay writers Eyal Podell and Jonathon E. Stewart, who’ve done an exemplary job here, instilling the proceedings with screwy and inventive laugh-a-minute jokes that cater to littlies and grownups alike. This film is unusually adult, so you just might find yourself enjoying it a bit more than your kids.
There are a ton of silly sight gags — the birds, for instance, use slingshots to ‘fly’ across the island — and slapstick aplenty — a scene where several squad members disguise themselves as a Trojan Eagle to infiltrate Zeta’s base, then clumsily try to steal a key card, may very well be the funniest thing you’ll see in a cinema all year — I was in fits. The Eagle Guards are a hoot, too — the slender Carl and his bulky co-worker Jerry (voiced by Zach Woods and Pete Davidson, respectively) are utterly hysterical, while a sequence that has a convocation of eagles take part in a breakdance battle will surely have you in stitches. And let’s not forget about the plethora of pop culture references, with a bit mimicking a James Bond-esque research facility being the film’s comic zenith — this scene involves a stocky, mustached and goateed Piggy inventor named Garry (voiced by Sterling K. Brown) showcasing an array of ‘gawd awful’ mission-specific weaponry to our flightless trio. It’s also worth noting the film’s needle drops, all of which are exceedingly on point!
Aside from the smorgasbord of visual and verbal quips, the narrative is exciting and engaging and skillfully slips in some semi-mature messages, exploring themes of forgiveness, tolerance, leadership, and the value of teamwork. We also get the typical gender-equality garble, with a feminist slant of course, but it’s not aggressive enough to distract and does feel in tune with the story being told. Additionally, a small screwy side quest following three fluffy, big-eyed hatchlings, one of whom is Zoe (voiced by Brooklynn Prince), daughter of the large, fat, groaning Terrence and Maya Rudolph’s chicken Matilda, is downright great, this mini-adventure managing to be adorable and funny whilst tying neatly into overall happenings late in the third act.
Regarding the voice cast, everyone is up to task. Sudeikis, Gad, and McBride all bring their A-game as the film’s central trio, while Bill Hader (who’s Hollywood start is rapidly rising) hams it up (pun intended) as Leonard Mudbeard, king of the snouts. Awkwafina, Crazy Rich Asians (2018), makes her mark as Leonard’s new headphone clad 2IC Courtney, who’s busier texting than actually lending a hoof, while the rest of the snot-colored swine, well, they act very much like Illumination’s Minions — they’re just as goofy and simple-minded! Series newcomer Rachel Bloom, from television’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (2015-19), is an excellent addition to the diverse ensemble, portraying Chuck’s bright and brilliant, over-achieving younger sister Silver, who’s constantly quarreling with Red after their first prickly encounter at a speed dating session.
Other noteworthy turns come from Leslie Jones, Ghostbusters (2016), who portrays ice-hearted baddie Zeta, and Game of Thrones (2011-19) alumni Peter Dinklage, reprising his role of the cowardly Mighty Eagle, who, this time around, harbors a dark secret, having fled Eagle Island years earlier for reasons unknown. Finally, comedians Tiffany Haddish, Girls Trip (2017), and Eugenio Derbez, Dora and the Lost City of Gold (2019), score equal slam dunks as a couple of eagle assistants, the former playing a coconut bra-wearing servant named Debbie and the latter a bumbling brainiac scientist called Glenn.
Running at a lean 97 minutes, The Angry Birds Movie 2 never outstays its welcome, the film a crowd-pleasing pageant of crazy capers that’s near-perfect all-ages viewing. With the 2016 original earning just north of $350 million worldwide, it’s a miracle that we ever got to see an Angry Birds sequel at all, but by gosh I’m so glad we did — it’s a blast from beak to bird’s foot! Flock to it like seagulls, folks, you’ll laugh your feathers off!
4 / 5 – Recommended
Reviewed by S-Littner