Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Angry Birds Movie ★★

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    In what is the second animated feature this year to display a dearth of ingenuity (the remarkably pathetic "Norm of the North" being the first), "The Angry Birds Movie" hits theaters this weekend with little anticipation, and its existence really only calls attention to the lack of imagination that now beleaguers every children's film in production—I'd call it a case of pestilence, yet I think it has more to do with incompetence than actual malady. (Unless, of course, one considers stupidity to be a shining example of affliction.) These flightless feathered friends are quite personable—there is no denying it—but charisma can only do so much. If anything, it is a middling script that grounds these "Angry Birds," and screenwriter Jon Vitti, a man who has contributed to the likes of "The Simpsons" and "The Critic," should receive a heap of the blame. I don't mean to be impertinent, but I expected more from a Harvard graduate.  

    Red (Jason Sudeikis), a cynical and quick-tempered fowl, is finding difficulty fitting in on Bird Island, the reclusive home to these "Angry Birds" and a debatable microcosm of our very own half-witted society. It's not that Red is socially awkward or exceptional in any way—he's simply averse to conformity. (While others indulge in yoga sessions and froyo binges, our uncongenial protagonist lives a life of solitude and disenchantment. All things considered, this sounds like my kind of bird.) This misanthropic demeanor eventually results in Red having to take compulsory anger management courses along with Bomb (Danny McBride) and Chuck (Josh Gad), two offbeat rejects who have everything in common with our chief character except one thing: They actually aspire to be accepted. (If you happen to find this plot summary a bit tedious, then I implore you for your patience. You see, there isn't much else to discuss.)

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    The rest of the picture plays out as a persistent and vexing bad pun (Vitti's wordplay is childish and empty, though you have to give credit for the crafty usage of "cardinal sin"), and our writer even shows us his ribald humor by including quips that refer to men's testicles as "giblets." Why am I sharing this? Well, I hope to notify you of the film's rebarbative and off-putting sense of self; perhaps I can safeguard a few small children from mental scarring in the process. As for the conflict, a horde of brightly green-colored pigs arrive on the island in a manner that evokes the colonization of the early Americas, and in predictable fashion, it is up to our petulant hero to save the day. (Not only does the climax ooze of predictability, but it fails to conjure up a single moment of suspense. Color me not surprised.) 

    All in all, this dutiful effort hints at two things: (1) It proves that a superb showing in the voice acting and art departments cannot overcome a script that doles out more idiocy than intrigue. (2) It also suggests the fruitlessness of the source material. The apps, which are far more fascinating than some spiritless screen adaptation, clearly have a longer shelf life, and "The Angry Birds Movie" will sputter on as a bonafide demonstration of ineptitude at its finest. (It is the movie's mixed messages that make it difficult to award merit—for instance, the film comments on the dangers of conformity and the elation associated with inclusiveness, yet these contradictory statements only complicate matters further.) This botched attempt at satire deserves about as much praise as any video game-based film, and that would be next to nothing.

    I'm beginning to understand why the Disney corporation cleans up every year at the Golden Globes and Academy Awards. For, the competition is weak and altogether undeserving. (With the exception of DreamWorks Animation's "How to Train Your Dragon" franchise, Disney should have little cause for concern.) Now, I've given this issue some considerable thought, and all I can say is that there seems to be a disconnect amongst the interests of today's youth and quality entertainment. (Godawful writing also plays its part, yet one cannot ignore the forgettable fads and fixations in which our children are exposed to year after year.) After a while, this merry-go-round of poorly produced films intended for a juvenile audience becomes tiresome, and I'm not sure if there is a feasible solution or savior in sight. If only Don Bluth were 30 years younger and primed to make a run at Best Animated Feature.