Before “The Angry Birds Movie 2” first screened in London, Sony proudly showed off the trailer for the new “Jumanji” movie (“The Next Level”) which the studio is obviously hoping will be its big Christmas hit. That film’s very existence, re-animated by Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart et al, proves you can never write off an old franchise or an even older video game — and there’s every chance that the further adventures of the flightless cartoon birds and their green pig adversaries can feather the nest for Sony this summer.
Not that “Angry Birds 2” is a very good film. Let’s not go crazy here. Compared to Disney/Pixar, the work here is rudimentary in terms of artistry, character and script. There are hardly any gags in the dialogue, not even terrible bird-based puns. And as for any wholesome or heart-warming family message, forget it. But that in itself may prove somewhat refreshing, an almost-anarchic antidote to the emotional manipulation of, say, “The Lion King” or “Toy Story 4.”
The bright, primary-hued animation, poppy soundtrack, social media-savvy voice casting and relentless silliness should prove attractive to kids, even if accompanying adults will find the combination like eating too many sweets. And adults shouldn’t be eating sweets anyway. Like the hoop invented by Tim Robbins in “The Hudsucker Proxy,” this is, you know, for kids…?
“Angry Birds 2” has the titular heroes — Red (Jason Sudeikis), Chuck (Josh Gad) and Bomb (Danny McBride) are now joined by a clever scientist named Silver (Rachel Bloom) — of Bird Island teaming up with their former porky prankster enemies on Pig Island who, led by Leonard (Bill Hader), call a truce when both lands come under threat from a vengeful eagle named Zeta (voiced uncomfortably over the top by Leslie Jones), who lobs ice balls filled with lava at them from her icy volcano lair on Eagle Island.
Taking the structure of a heist movie and a WWII mission movie (“Where Eagles Dare”?), it hops along swiftly enough, with time for a cute running subplot involving little hatchlings trying to recapture some eggs they’ve lost, rather like Scratch in the “Ice Age” movies forever chasing his acorn. There are hardly any gags in the dialogue of Peter Ackerman’s script, not even terrible bird-based puns (though I did like the shot of one bird reading a best-seller called “Crazy Rich Avians”).
The tone and the plot take some time to settle, but once director Thurop van Orman (a TV animation vet making his feature debut) hits his fully frenetic stride (and adults decide to surrender their senses and go along for the ride), the bird and pig unit become almost affable in their daftness.
The sequences in which they disguise themselves inside a giant mechanical bird costume (like “Sesame Street”‘s Big Bird) and teeter into the Eagle Island control room are actually pretty funny, including a break-dance off and some slapstick comic business in the men’s bathroom. There are laughs, too, in Peter Dinklage’s voice work as Mighty Eagle and Sterling K. Brown’s nerdy, disheveled pig Garry and his terrible gadget inventions — all of which he tries out on “guinea” pigs, of course.
Performers of songs featured include Lionel Richie, David Bowie, “Axel F,” Kesha (singing the single from the film, “Best Day”) and — damn them — “Baby Shark,” so the mash-up could not be more complete nor bewildering, not to mention the cameo voice appearances from Tiffany Haddish, Nicki Minaj, Awkwafina, and YouTube stars JoJo Siwa and David Dobrik. Eagle-eyed credit readers may also spot a mention of Brooklynn Prince (playing the character Zoe), so charming as Moonee in “The Florida Project” a couple of years ago.
Perhaps most notable of all nestled in the credits are the acting debuts, as the Hatchlings, of the little Kidman-Urbans (the daughters of Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban, Faith Margaret and Sunday Rose), who are joined by the daughters of Gal Gadot and Viola Davis to voice the little birds. Good to see the movie business really opening up the talent pool there.
While “The Angry Birds Movie 2” — they’re not so much angry as completely stupid– might not take flight, it can launch itself into the summer kids’ movie roster with colorful confidence that won’t ruffle any feathers.