Some Sequels Are Truly All They’re Cracked Up To Be
I’ll be the first to admit that 2016’s Angry Birds Movie took me by surprise. Fearing another big budget cash grab based on a video game franchise with nearly zero backstory or character development, the fact that the first film was competent, colorful, well written and quite humorous was, frankly, surprising.
As is required when children’s movies turn a healthy profit, the sequel was in development nearly immediately after and that brings us to 2019’s The Angry Birds Movie 2. Sony Pictures Animation brings us the 97-minute action comedy that stars the original cast (with a few new additions), was built upon a budget of $65-million and managed to take in $154.6-million at the box office alone. In short, it’s safe to say this is probably not the last time we’ll be hearing from the Angry Birds.
Interestingly, this is the rare case of a sequel being allotted a smaller budget than the original (in this case $65-million compared to the original’s $73-mil) but both films turned very healthy profits regardless.
The story this time finds Red, Chuck and Bomb taken by surprise (like me with the quality of the first film) when the green pigs suggest that they put aside their feud and unite to fight a new common threat.
It turns out aggressive birds from a glacier are developing an elaborate weapon to destroy both the fowl and swine occupying the neighboring islands so as to trade in the popsicle life for a tropical one. After assembling a team of their best and brightest, the birds and pigs come up with a scheme to infiltrate the icy island, deactivate the device and be home in time for seed and slop respectively.
Does the story work? Sure, so long as you go in not expecting the next Pixar masterpiece capable of changing your whole horizon. It’s silly, it’s ridiculous, it’s fast paced but most important of all, it’s funny. At the end of the day, that last bit just may be the most important of them all when considering such a piece in the first place.
The first film was a bright silly action romp built atop a surprisingly solid social commentary – that of Red (Jason Sudeikis) being court ordered to undergo anger management where he meets short-fused Bomb (Danny McBride) and neurotic Chuck (Josh Gad). This time, the plot isn’t quite as subtle. In fact it feels more like what one would expect from DreamWorks if their Penguins of Madagascar was a bit less nonsensical.
There are moments here that feel almost like an animated version of Ocean’s Eleven only with rapid-fire gags, puns and slapstick opportunities coming fast and furious – yes even more than in the actual Ocean’s Eleven. But every time you think you have the plot’s intentions figured out, they pull a subtle directional change. Expect times where gadgets and technology start to feel a bit like 007, expect times where infiltrating an enemy’s base harkens to Mission: Impossible, expect moments where feuding nations joining forces feels like a legit war movie. Then, every time you sense a theme starting to develop, insert a random twist, a pop culture reference or an unexpected song (I’m looking at you Lovin’ You by Minnie Riperton) and you have the formula for a romp sure to keep even the most ADHD viewer’s attention locked.
In the event that all of this wasn’t enough – there is an even more preposterous but severely adorable side story going on whereby a trio of hatchlings chase three unhatched eggs around that feels, at times, like those early exercises in computer generated animation to show off what’s possible in the medium.
All in all, the film feels, to me anyway, an awful lot like what I imagined the first one to be – a lot of humorous silliness in the tradition of Illumination’s Minions or DreamWorks’ above-mentioned Penguins franchise. However, it’s actually got a bit more substance than either of those two – which may have tipped the scales a bit too far to the children’s side at the expense of the adult viewers in tow. Angry Birds 2 actually remembers to pack in some laughs for the adults too – going as far as to actually include a few sexual innuendos that are just vague enough as to fly over the heads of younger viewers like a slingshot feathered projectile.
There are certainly worse ways to spend an hour and a half and while I still prefer the slightly more nuanced humor of the first, have to say that Sony’s ability to turn these characters into a franchise is no small feat. It should be interesting to see where they go with the next one.