A movie like The Angry Birds Movie 2 is all but doomed from the start, being based on a property that really offers nothing in terms of narrative or aesthetic potential while having enough familiar imagery that the film can’t step too far away to dive into unexpected places. This is a work required to hit certain beats to be familiar as an adaptation while none of these beats actually add up to anything meaningful.
Red and friends must unite with their rival pigs to rescue both of their islands from a psycho bird that wants to force both into fleeing. Wacky hijinks ensue. This is the type of children’s film that rarely inspires to anything beyond a few laughs.
Sony Pictures Animation and Imageworks have always been easy to write off as a second-rate animation studio, creating a set of films happy to settle into that inoffensively mediocre zone while also gifting us the abominable Emoji Movie. Late last year, they shattered everyone’s expectations by releasing one of the best movies this decade with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – how were they able to turn so quickly?
Even The Angry Birds Movie 2 shows a certain level of craft that seems beyond its premise. The fluidity of the animation and editing is at times surprising; despite the limiting factors of the source material, the people involved with the movie were clearly working hard to make the best of it. This is a work with pretty spot-on comedic timing (when it’s not grinding to a dead halt to really drive home that it just made a joke) – the problem is that many of the jokes land flat anyway.
This is a movie in constant conflict between presentation and substance. The stellar animation is brought down by the overly basic visual design while jokes jump between truly clever visual gags and an endless cycle of pig butts. There is a plot here, but the series feels like a series of disparate vignettes.
The most emblematic moments of this film come with an almost entirely disconnected b-plot as three baby birds get caught up in misadventure as they try to rescue three eggs. Several of these scenes are legitimately hilarious, especially one that involves a snake, but they also have no functional narrative purpose. Every scene in this movie feels so randomly constructed.
As such, the characters don’t really have much room to grow. Central figure Red is desperate for adoration and crushed when people pay him little mind after the truce between bird and pig. Thus, he is guided to prove himself by saving the island again. A new love interest is brought in, but that amounts to little of value besides adding a rare female face to this male heavy cast. The other characters mostly exist to set up bits than to be real characters.
The Angry Birds Movie 2 is a surprisingly competent film saddled with the most subpar source material. With what they were handed, the studio did a fantastic job – the question is why this studio keeps failing to invest in better stories to match their animation. So few animated movies get released every year and it’s a shame that such a company appears so eager to accept whatever generic screenplay comes their way. There’s promise here, but nothing can be done with it when they’re asked to do so little.
2.5 Stars Out of 5