THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE 2. Voices of Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader, Peter Dinklage. Directed by Thurop Van Orman. 97 minutes. Rated PG (Mild crude humour and coarse language).
Before watching this sequel to 2016’s ‘The Angry Bird Movie’, you’d do well to forget the juvenile yet devilishly addictive fun that was the ‘Angry Birds’ mobile phone game upon which both movies were based. That’s because the only thing that it shares with this “family entertainment” is a colourful but unremarkable animation style – ‘The Angry Birds Movie 2’ is a lame and joyless flick that firmly pushes its talented but unenthused voice cast through an uninspired story.
We again follow Red (Jason Sudeikis) and his pals Chuck (Josh Gad) and Bomb (Danny McBride, doing his best Seth Rogen impression). After saving Bird Island from pigs intent on stealing their fellow birds’ eggs, Red relishes his newfound herodom, a disparate state from his former friendless solitude. His reputation as the protector of birdkind is continually bolstered by an ongoing prank war with the residents of Pig Island. But, when the leader of the pigs, King Leonard (Bill Hader), calls a truce, Red can feel his place in his compatriots’ hearts slipping away through irrelevance.
When Bird Island comes under attack by an ice-ball-launching superweapon, the reason for Leonard’s proposed truce becomes clear. Said weapon belongs to Zeta (Leslie Jones), the leader of a previously unknown volcanic atoll called Eagle Island, and she is set on destroying both birds and pigs alike to claim their tropical paradises for the eagles. With the truce between Red and Leonard sealed, the enemies-turned-allies get down to pressing business: destroying Zeta’s weapon before it can destroy them. Although Red desperately wants to be the hero again, even he acknowledges that they’ll need some help to save the day.
In addition to Chuck and Bomb, Red brings along Chuck’s sister, the engineering prodigy Silver (Rachel Bloom), and Mighty Eagle (Peter Dinklage). Leonard too drafts his most qualified swine into their operation, namely his rebellious assistant Courtney (Awkwafina) and his tech guy Garry (Sterling K. Brown). The team makes for Eagle Island, where a showdown with Zeta, her eagle army and her unexpected backstory awaits them.
The story is fairly boilerplate frenemies-on-a-mission narrative from which the filmmakers presumably planned to hang an ongoing stream of jokes, delivered for both sight and sound (as a genre, comedic animation has recently been at the forefront of the former mode). Instead, the best that they can manage is a handful of limp gags, plenty of which revolve around short-lived pop culture references like dabbing and the earworm ‘Baby Shark’. These not only fail to dredge up any laughs, they also date the film terribly. The only entertaining (and surprising) part of the movie is a subplot about young bird Zoe (Brooklynn Prince) and her two pals as they embark on an outrageous journey to rescue her baby sisters.
Recent animated sequels like ‘Toy Story 4’ and ‘The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part’ have succeeded in part by putting their familiar characters through unexpected journeys, like Sheriff Woody confronting his growing obsolescence or Emmett witnessing what it means to abandon his irrepressible optimism. ‘The Angry Birds Movie 2’ fails to capitalise on the potential that returning characters bring to a film by having Red, the only character with any semblance of an arc (Chuck and Bomb are one-dimensional, one-joke cut-outs), learn pretty much the same lesson as he did in the previous film; to wit, working together with others usually results in better outcomes.
Without a great deal to work with, the members of the sequel’s impressive roster turn in performances that could best be described as functional (I don’t say “impressive” lightly either – in addition to those already mentioned, the film features the voices of comedy stars Tiffany Haddish, Eugenio Derbez, Beck Bennett, Maya Rudolph, Zach Woods, Pete Davidson and Lil Rel Howery). They’re not entirely responsible for the lacklustre performances – not even inspired delivery could have saved this script – but they might reasonably wish that they’d looked a little closer at their obligations to make a sequel before signing up to the first. Forget the birds, it’s the talent involved and audience members that have every right to be angry.
Callum Ryan is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out September 12.