Tuesday, July 7, 2020

The Angry Birds Movie 2 Could Stand To Channel The Spirit of Flapjack More

Why would I have any interest in watching a sequel to the overall terrible (and surprisingly racist) Angry Birds Movie? Three words: Thurop Van Orman. He's the filmmaker tasked with directing Angry Birds Movie 2, but previously, he was the creator of the Cartoon Network TV show The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack. Flapjack was such an oddball program and I adored it for that. The gags on that show were usually as disturbing as they were comedic, which isn't a statement one can normally say for kid-oriented programming in the 21st-century. The prospect of him getting to direct a feature-length movie, even one starring those Angry Birds, was an exciting prospect for me!

Screenwriters Peter Ackerman, Eyal Podell, and Jonathan E. Stewart try to cram in a lot into Angry Birds Movie 2 and boy do I mean a lot. The primary storyline concerns Red (Jason Sudeikis) being desperate to maintain his status as a hero on Bird Island. Before he saved his home from the nefarious pigs, he was an outcast, a total loser. Red doesn't wanna go back to that. But the bird/pig rivalry that's keeping Red's popularity afloat comes to a truce when a new enemy emerges. Purple bird Zeta (Leslie Jones), who resides on the chilly Eagle Island, has a plan to destroy both Bird Island and Pig Island. Now birds and pigs will have to unite to stop this new villain.

Along the way, there are just way too many subplots to speak of, including recurring scenes with a trio of baby birds. These segments feel like they're trying to capture the comedic side-adventure spirit of Scrat in the original Ice Age movies. However, these baby birds are so disconnected with the rest of the movie (they're not even related to any of the main birds). This makes their scenes filler rather than satisfying comedy. At least the sight of the baby birds bursting into flames upon re-entering Earth's atmosphere (don't ask how we got there) did give me a chuckle, which does speak to how Angry Birds Movie 2 tends to fare best with darker and absurdist gags.

Though Van Orman is not credited as one of the writers of Angry Birds Movie 2, these are the kind of jokes that feel like they hew closest to his sensibilities as a filmmaker. When Angry Birds Movie 2 is engaging in outright strange comedy, it does tend to be a passable diversion. Bill Hader's pig character Leonardo doing a silly Snagglepuss-esque voice while in a ramshackle eagle disguise, a seal and a frozen dog sharing a romantic dinner, a flashback to the 1990s complete with "Flockbuster". These are the kind of weird gags that would have fit right at home in something like Flapjack but they've found a decent enough home in Angry Birds Movie 2.

Unfortunately, too much of the production ends up relying on the familiar cornerstones of modern-computer animated kids movies. A cast list way too stacked with celebrities? You've got it. Awkwafina, Nicki Minaj, Pete Davidson, Maya Rudolph, Eugenio Derbez and so many others have nothing to do beyond just being another name the producers can tack onto the poster. Meanwhile, Angry Birds Movie 2 can't seem to resist shoehorning in a pop song needle-drop into every scene. Is Turn Down For What still a relevant enough song in 2019? Furthermore, why did they even hire Heitor Pereira to compose a score for Angry Birds Movie 2 with the wall-to-wall pop songs? At least this attribute means Angry Birds Movie 2 is the only film in history to feature both Space Oddity and Baby Shark.

Also disappointing is how Angry Birds Movie 2 plods down along a predictable primary storyline involving Red learning to work with others and developing a kind of romance with new character Silver (Rachel Bloom). Angry Birds Movie 2 gets its best gags from random ludicrousness but its primary storytelling instinct is to go for the formulaic. The storytelling woes extend to how the high quantity of subplots means so many aspects of Angry Birds Movie 2's plot go underemployed. The pigs and birds working together angle, for example, seems like a game-changer but doesn't really factor into the plot. Angry Birds Movie 2 has moments where it captures the comedic chaos that put Thurop Van Orman on my radar. The rest of it isn't really bad (it's always a considerable step up from the first movie) but Angry Birds Movie 2 mostly settles for being average rather than soaring.

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