Second ‘Angry Birds’ flies higherReview by Justin Chang, of the Los Angeles Times
In the “Angry Birds” video games, you use a slingshot to lob flightless buzzards at wobbly fortresses stacked with snickering green pigs. Some quick mental physics is involved, depending on how carefully you care to estimate the trajectory of each bird and the height of each structure. But the satisfactions of these puzzles are as basic and primal as an explosion in a Michael Bay movie. They have a wondrous conceptual simplicity.
The “Angry Birds” movies, for all their virtues, do not. The first one, released to great commercial success in 2016, pulled off the dubious trick of turning these squawking projectiles into characters, each with its own wisecracks and neuroses. The angriest bird was Red (voiced by Jason Sudeikis), shunned by everyone else for his short fuse and thick eyebrows until he proved himself a hero at heart. It was pretty good fun, all in all, even if some of the gags and misunderstandings felt tacked on. Birds go whoosh, pigs go boom — what is there to misunderstand?
“The Angry Birds Movie 2,” a riotous burst of computer-animated slapstick silliness directed by Thurop Van Orman, further complicates the plot and the character dynamics — gratuitously, but enjoyably. Things are looking up for Red, who is now celebrated rather than ostracized. (He may, however, be ostrich-sized. It’s hard to tell. These things aren’t drawn to scale.) Red is now the beloved hero of Bird Island and the leader of its ongoing prank war with Leonard (Bill Hader) and all the other annoying green oinksters on Pig Island.
You may recall that in the previous episode, the pigs stole and nearly ate all the birds’ eggs, an episode of attempted mass child murder that is amusingly shrugged off here. In perhaps the most startling development, and one that may strike loyal fans as a bit of a betrayal, the pigs are no longer the birds’ swine — er, sworn enemies. The screenplay (by Peter Ackerman, Eyal Podell and Jonathon E. Stewart) contrives a third island, whose inhabitants have begun using a powerful cannon to shoot massive balls of ice at their avian and porcine neighbors, a threat so serious that Red and Leonard call a truce and join forces.
There’s something admirable, and perhaps instructive, about the idea of two rival factions putting aside their differences to deal with a drastic change in the weather. But the enemy here isn’t environmental. The leader of that third island is Zeta, a foul-tempered purple eagle who looks like what you’d get if Gonzo the Muppet mated with a palm tree. Zeta has her reasons for pummeling her neighbors with balls of ice and, eventually, balls of lava, and it’s a giddy delight to hear Leslie Jones articulate them in long, indignant, screech-tacular monologues.
The complications are ludicrous, but the movie navigates them with cheek and verve, and the jokes land with surprising consistency. Zeta-Jones, as I’m tempted to call her, gives easily the movie’s most memorable performance, though you may also recognize Tiffany Haddish and Awkwafina in trusty sidekick roles. Josh Gad and Danny McBride are back as Red’s dependable feathered friends, Chuck and Bomb. So is Peter Dinklage as Mighty Eagle, the rare bird here with the power of flight, a talent he makes up for by being inept in most other respects.
And then there is Chuck’s little sister, Silver (Rachel Bloom), a plucky engineer who quickly establishes herself as the brains of the outfit and who thus provides Red with a humbling lesson in not (ahem) hogging the glory. Silver’s problem-solving skills, which at one point require her to make some quick calculations of arcs and angles, come as a brief reminder of the games’ original pleasures.
“The Angry Birds Movie 2,” with its manic but never frenetic barrage of puns, needle drops and romantic subplots, pays a few cinematic dividends that a touch-screen interface cannot. The lush island visuals are lovelier and more beautifully textured than they have any need to be: A scene of three little hatchlings on a beach, trying to rescue some runaway eggs in a delightful subplot, is worth it just to see the tiny grains of sand clinging to their feathers. Also, if memory serves, the games don’t include the best scene of urinal-adjacent action-comedy since “Mission: Impossible — Fallout.” Maybe they should.
‘THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE 2’
Three stars out of four.
Rating: PG, for rude humor and action.
Released by: Sony Pictures.
Running time: 96 minutes.