The Angry Birds Movie Parent Review
"Angry Birds" is a strategic marketing machine from a plucky little company hoping to liberate a video game brand from the 5-inch screen to a wider movie audience.
Undoubtedly you’ve heard of the Angry Birds that roost within millions of smartphones worldwide. The game has managed to attract broad demographic appeal—in fact watching his 85-year-old mother play the game on her iPad is what led executive producer David Maisel to approach the creators of these bombastic birds and talk about making a movie. That was 2011. Now Maisel is hoping he can do for Angry Birds what he did for Marvel when he convinced them to create the first Avengers movie with their own bank account. (Of course that experiment was a raging success, with Disney later buying Marvel comics for $4 billion.)
But those Marvel characters had something these uppity birds don’t—legendary origin stories and a legacy of interaction. In contrast these feathered fowl can’t offer a backstory, a purpose or even fly! So what will take place during our 97-minute peek into the life of the Angry Birds? Pretty much what you’d expect—birds bombing pigs (in case you aren’t aware, green pigs are the birds’ adversary) and destroying structures while trying to avoid crates of TNT. And there is an ever-so-thin storyline that leaves you wondering if there’s a deeper message to this movie or if you’re just hallucinating on too much green soda.
Red (voice of Jason Sudeikis) is the iconic main character of the game and the movie. He, along with all the other birds in this universe, inhabit one happy little island. But he is not happy. The invented backstory depicts Red as an abandoned, bullied child who was mercilessly teased for having big, bushy eyebrows. Now he has a permanently negative disposition and the more time he spends amongst the cacophony of life surrounding him, the angrier he gets. Not surprisingly, his job as a cake delivering birthday clown doesn’t suit him well. When he has an angry meltdown and smashes a cake into a client’s face he ends up in an anger management with a flock of other angry birds.
Sitting in the therapy circle are more characters that will be familiar to game players: The speedy yellow duck-like Chuck, the can’t-help-himself-from-blowing-up Bomb and the huge, glowering Terence (voices of Josh Gad, Danny McBride and Sean Penn). Leading these fowl offenders toward a more controlled emotional future is Matilda (voice of Maya Rudolph) a sophisticated bird with a penchant for yoga.
As expected, Red isn’t doing well in class and when a strange ship captained by a green pig (voice of Bill Hader) appears on the island’s shore Red refuses to join the other birds’ welcoming overture. If you play the game, you’ll immediately recognize that these swine are trouble and they will be the target of all the birds’ anger by the end of the game… er… movie.
The video game violence of bombing birds will be one element of concern to parents. Then there’s the heavy dependence on scatological humor. We discover the lovely Matilda has the ability to blast enemies with flaming flatulence but perhaps the, ahem, high water mark is when a character urinates for a very, very long time into a glistening pool of water that others have just finished bathing in and drinking from. If that’s not likely to tickle your funny bone, also be aware of jokes just for parents that reference adult films and lines like “pluck my life”.
However, it’s the movie message that may leave moms and dads wondering what to think. You, or your kids, may have used these birds to bomb those green pigs in the past and if so you know the villains’ motive is to steal the birds’ eggs and eat them for breakfast. It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt, and when the scenario is put into a story arc the implied pro-violence theme seem more overt. Perhaps you’ll be pleased to see a film that doesn’t shun anger but instead teaches that frustration is an emotion that, if directed appropriately, can motivate us to fight for important goals—in this case the lives of the birds’ children. Or you may instead be troubled by a xenophobic overtone of a story that teaches children to reject anyone who appears in your world that doesn’t look and act like you. Or you may simply wish you would have saved your movie dollars for something else.
The bottom line is this really is a movie about just that—the bottom line. Angry Birds is a strategic marketing machine from a plucky little company that knows how to manage a brand. The production is an obvious attempt to liberate a video game brand from the 5-inch screen and release it into a wider universe of movies, television and licensed landfill fodder. Sure, what franchise doesn’t want to make money? Yet I can’t help but fear that these birds, if successful, will lead an invasion followed by every other two-dimensional pixelated creation.Directed by Clay Kaytis, Fergal Reilly. Starring Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Danny McBride, Sean Penn. Running time: 97 minutes. Theatrical release May 20, 2016. Updated August 16, 2016
Get details on profanity, sex and violence in The Angry Birds Movie here.
The Angry Birds Movie Parents Guide
On the peaceful island of the birds, there is no tolerance for anti-social behavior, such as anger. However, when the flock is forced to defend itself, they turn to the aggressive characters for guidance on how to act. Why is violence initially abhorred? Why is it suddenly viewed as a necessary evil? Do you think there is a place for anger in society? When and how should such emotions be expressed/channeled? What reasons might justify such a response? What things are worth fighting for? Are there any other ways to resolve conflicts?
One character remarks, “The fate of world depends on idiots like me—and that is terrifying.” Have you ever felt there was nowhere you could turn for help with a big problem? Did the situation paralyze you or motivate you to find greater strength than you knew you had? Is there really no one you can count on besides yourself? Where did the angry birds eventually find extra support?
When the pigs first arrive on their shores, the birds are very welcoming. Why do they see Red’s suspicions as intolerance? Why does he see their acceptance of the strangers as gullible? How should you respond when you meet someone different than yourself? How do you know when you should be questioning or accepting? Why are things in the real world not as easy to judge?