Dir: Thurop van Orman. Starring: Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Danny McBride, Leslie Jones, Bill Hader, Rachel Bloom, and Awkwafina. U, 97 mins
The Angry Birds Movie 2 exists, rather inexplicably. It’s a sequel to the 2016 adaptation of the wildly popular App Store game – a film that no one wanted to see made but somehow turned out not to be a soulless disaster. Its follow-up has achieved the impossible once more: it’s an ebullient kid’s film that’s pacy enough to keep the little ones hooked, while also eliciting a few chuckles from the parents.
The residents of Bird Island (who are birds) and the residents of Piggy Island (who are pigs) have been sworn enemies since the events of the first film, when the latter ruthlessly attempted to steal the eggs of the former. Since then, they’ve been engaged in a long and (not so bloody) prank war. While the source game saw the birds use their own bodies as slingshot ammo, as they attempt to launch themselves at the porcine settlements and knock them to the ground, this second cinematic outing has allowed some diversification in both sides’s tactics. Here there are projectile hot sauce bottles, giant magnifying glasses, and balloons filled with crabs.
Yet things take a sudden turn when the leader of the pigs, Leonard (Bill Hader), discovers that, in fact, there’s a third, ice-encrusted island in existence. It’s home to a clan of eagles, led by Zeta (Leslie Jones), who’s become sick and tired of the constant cold. She wants to rest her claws where there’s sun and sand, even if it requires a hostile takeover of the two other islands. Cue the formation of an uneasy alliance, as bird and pig must meet in the middle in order to defeat a common enemy.
If it all sounds a little odd, well, The Angry Birds Movie 2 really is quite odd – but that’s also where it gets its spiky sense of humour. Scripted by Peter Ackerman (whose credits include both Ice Age and The Americans), Eyal Podell, and Jonathon E Stewart, the film manages to take a fairly simple story in unexpected directions. Yes, there’s plenty of buffoonery here, but many of the jokes are also dark and surprisingly surreal, in a way that feels niche enough that children won’t catch on. The highlight of the film is arguably its side plot, which deals with a trio of hatchlings whose leader, Zoe (The Florida Project’s Brooklynn Prince) has managed to lose her unborn sisters, still in their egg stage. Not only are these little chicks aggressively cute and fluffy, but the film repeatedly puts them in dangerous situations that they all survive with the invulnerability of Wile E Coyote. It turns out baby birds, too, burn up upon re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere (I won’t spoil how they got into that mess in the first place).
In fact, The Angry Birds Movie 2 owes a lot to the manic energy of the Looney Tunes. Director Thurop van Orman, who’s worked on TV shows such as The Powerpuff Girls and Adventure Time, holds the audience’s attention by constantly swerving the film in different directions, often ending scenes in unexpected ways. There’s also a pretty formidable cast of names to help punch up the weaker aspects of the material: returning cast members Hader, Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, and Danny McBride are joined by an array talents who have punctuated the cultural mainstream in the past few years, namely Jones, Awkwafina, Tiffany Haddish, and Rachel Bloom. There are even a few celebrity kids thrown into the mix, for good measure: the daughters of Nicole Kidman, Viola Davis, and Gal Gadot all make an appearance as hatchlings.
Unfortunately, the film’s still compelled to namecheck (now largely out of date) cultural trends, including dabbing and the song “Turn Down for What”, whose music video went viral back in 2013, and assault our ears with as many instantly recognisable tunes as possible. It’s the signature of any children’s film that knows there’s a certain impermanence to its existence. After all, didn’t we all leave Angry Birds behind when the phenomenon of Pokemon GO reared its head? The Angry Birds Movie 2 knows that it’s doomed to come and go in a flash but, to its credit, it’s at least a welcome presence while it’s here.
The Angry Birds Movie 2 is released in UK cinemas on 2 August
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