CHICAGO (Christian Examiner) – What do you get when you turn a video game with no plot into a theatrical film? Answer: A movie with no plot.
Okay, perhaps that's a little harsh, but families flocking to theaters this weekend to watch "Angry Birds" (PG) shouldn't expect another "Home" or "Inside Out" or even "Zootopia" – three recent movies I watched with my children and thoroughly enjoyed.
And while those latter three films had wonderful storylines with lovable characters that I (mostly) wanted my children to emulate, "Angry Birds" gives us a goofy scatological-laced storyline with annoying sarcastic characters that I'd do everything possible to keep my children from (if cartoon characters were real people, mind you).
It's also not a very funny movie, although humor can be very subjective and I'm sure lots of kids will be cackling at every single butt joke (there are many).
Many parents also would not consider "Angry Birds" appropriate for young children, but let's first take a quick peak at the plot.
The movie tells us the story of Red, a bird who is sarcastic and cynical about life, and who has struggled with anger for as long as he can remember. He destroys a scarecrow he finds irritating. He smears a birthday cake in the face of a father who ticks him off. He slaps the doctor for touching his knee. All of this is bad enough, but he lives on an island where nearly all of the other birds are happy. Finally, a court sends Red to anger management classes, where he and three other angry birds try and solve their issues.
Red is angry – we learn in a flashback – partially because he was bullied in school. (One of the children teases him by saying he "doesn't have parents or even friends.")
The film takes a turn when a "UFO ship" full of green pigs sails across the ocean and lands on their shore. The pigs seem friendly enough and they even throw a party for the birds, but Red suspects that the pigs have ulterior motives. When Red is unable to get any of the island's bird leaders to believe him, he and two of the other angry birds set off to the top of a local mountain, where a "Mighty Eagle" lives who can save the day. Soon, they discover that their suspicions were true and that the pigs are trying to steal the island's eggs – in other words, the baby birds.
"I am not going to let any of these eggs be taken from their families!" Red declares.
For families who do watch it, "Angry Birds" has several lessons that can be learned. Red's anger prevents him from functioning in life or making friends, and it's not until he gets control over it – during a poignant moment at the end – that he sees what a difference he can make. There's also a nice lesson about self-sacrifice in the final minutes, and the impact of bullying should not be overlooked.
But the positive lessons in "Angry Birds" seem to drown in all of the low-brow, double-entendre humor. The pigs dance provocatively and even at one point throw their clothes into the crowd. When the pigs steal all of the eggs, one of Red's friends suggests to the crowd that the females need to "get busy tonight" and make more eggs. Later, when the birds are preparing to go to war, Red says, "Drop your nuts and move your butts" (they were holding actual nuts). When the wind aids in their attack, Red says, "That blows, in a good way."
There are other problems. We see one of the birds paint "Fart Face" on one of the pigs. We hear Red tell the crowd that he wants "angry flockin' birds" – although it comes close to sounding like the real F-word. We watch (from behind) the "Mighty Eagle" urinate for an extremely long time. We even see a book titled "Fifty Shades of Green."
"Angry Birds" has four instances of "oh my G—," and they're all said by the same character and drawn out as if to be humorous. "Butt" is said four times, "shut up" three times," "what the" is said three times without finishing it, and "son of a" is also heard without a finish.
I always watch kids' movies with two questions: Is the message mostly positive? (For this one, I have to say "no.") And, are my children going to leave the theater emulating bad behavior that I will need to correct? ("Yes.")
If you want your kids telling posterior and urinating jokes for the next six months, then "Angry Birds" is probably for you. But if not, you better skip it.
Entertainment rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.
"Angry Birds" is rated PG.
Post-movie discussion topics: anger – how do you control it?; bullying – would Red have turned out differently if his classmates were friendly?