Monday, May 23, 2016

Looking at Movies (First Run) - Angry Birds (2016)

Since not many three-year-olds own smartphones, it is safe to assume that companies develop game apps for teenagers and adults. Every once in a while, a game app comes along that somehow finds an audience with really young children, like three-year-olds. My grandson is three and he is obsessed with Angry Birds. He loves the games and he loves the cartoons. But he is still not the target market for the game. That is why game apps live in this confused and strange world that makes marketing a disaster.

So you have a game that creates a cartoon that is popular with small children, but it is played on a platform owned by teenagers and adults. In a perfect world, Rovio should just accept its success, keep adding to its one billion downloads, and keep making truckloads of money from its cartoons. But then Rovio decided to make a movie and try to bring all of its target audiences together. If there is one thing a new movie studio like Rovio needs to learn, it is that you cannot please everyone. No matter how hard you try.

I could tell Rovio didn't have a real audience for this movie when I started to read the list of actors. Sure, there are plenty of movies that bring old and young actors and talent together with plenty of success. But in most animated movies, the older actors are used to voice the older characters. In Angry Birds, Rovio uses Sean Penn to voice one of the main characters, and then brings in some YouTube personalities to do other voices. To me, an eclectic mix of actors needs the right kind of movie to be able to work together, and this just isn't the right kind of movie.

This movie works, and it doesn't works. It works because it does take full advantage of the now iconic images and music it has created (although that song that gets repeated over and over again in the game is only in the movie for a few seconds) and it also uses the video game story that we all know. Where it goes off the track is when it tries to give the video game a backstory, and it mixes adult humor and children's humor in the same movie.

For example, there is a scene that goes for a couple of minutes that shows two of the characters swimming in a lake and doing silly things. My grandson loved that scene, and even I laughed a little. That scene is immediately followed by a three-minute scene of an eagle pissing into the lake. I immediately felt uncomfortable, and my discomfort was rewarded when my grandson asked out loud "What's that?" Yeah, he didn't get it.

Some of the attempts at adult humor in Angry Birds just don't work. The slapstick and kids jokes do their jobs, but the adult humor is simply too basic to work. There is nothing clever about this movie, despite the unbelievable originality it took to create the game.

To get a backstory, the writers had to create a reason why the birds are angry and why the pigs steal the eggs. In the cartoons that are on television, the concept of a backstory is done really well. In the movie, it is extended out to the point where the end is very disturbing. The end is basically: "You have our kids, so we will kill your kids to get our kids back." Which most adults figured was the premise anyways, but my grandson even picked up on it in the movie and he didn't like it.

This is not a terrible movie. My grandson loved it and I am almost certain it did not scar him for life. If your kids love the game, then they will love the movie. But for adults, Angry Birds feels like a patchwork of potentially good ideas that were ruined because they had no focus. The movie gets confusing and almost surreal at times. It is probably worth a watch, but it is not something you will want to see again.

Rating: 2 out of 5

George N Root III sees all of the first run movies at the drive-in, and you should too. Follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3, or send him a message at georgenroot3@gmail.com.

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