In the 3D animated comedy, The Angry Birds Movie, we'll finally find out why the birds are so angry. The movie takes us to an island populated entirely by happy, flightless birds - or almost entirely. In this paradise, Red (Jason Sudeikis, We're the Millers, Horrible Bosses), a bird with a temper problem, speedy Chuck (Josh Gad in his first animated role since Frozen), and the volatile Bomb (Danny McBride, This is the End, Eastbound and Down) have always been outsiders. But when the island is visited by mysterious green piggies, it's up to these unlikely outcasts to figure out what the pigs are up to.
'The Angry Birds Movie' is evidence of how far we've come in the last three decades, that filmmaking has perhaps reached the pinnacle of its technological evolution. Movies based on video games played on traditional consoles seem dime a dozen, but this CG-animated production marks the first full-length adaptation of a smartphone app. Living in an age where handheld devices exist is a marvel in and of itself, little computer apparatuses which have consumed a major part of our existence and have even become like an extension of ourselves — the world's most extensive film library at your fingertips. But possibly even more wondrous, as well as mind-boggling, is the fact that we've reached a milestone when such devices and their programs are now the source of inspiration for major film productions. It's too early to tell what it all entails and the damage, if any, it might have on the future of filmmaking, but if this is any indication of the quality it could give rise to, then the future isn't all that grim. There is definitely room for improvement, but it's a colorfully fun family flick with several shrewd gags just for the parents to delight in.
The game itself doesn't come with much of a plot in the first place, though the storyline is pretty straightforward. A gang of hungry pigs steal eggs from birds, and unsurprisingly, they seek angry revenge for the outrage. Ironically, they invade huffing and puffing to blow the pigs' houses down — or more like, destroy them with their heads and a slingshot. One of the challenges was expanding such a simple story into a more elaborate and involving plot, which I would argue the film mostly definitely does with amusing charm. From a story conjured up by three writers, the script is by Jon Vitti, whose long resume includes various episodes for 'King of the Hill,' 'The Larry Sanders Show' and 'The Simpsons,' including the movie adaptation. And it cutely, as well as smartly, reimagines the original premise as an isolated island inhabited by a variety of exotic birds that can't fly — and oddly, there aren't any chickens, ostriches or penguins in sight. This little tidbit is used as the winsome reason for characters later requiring a slingshot, which was comically introduced by Leonard/King Mudbeard (Bill Hader) and his marauding ship of pigs.
For those familiar with the game, which I would imagine is many reading this given the app's popularity, the main protagonist is a red cardinal, aptly named Red and voiced by Jason Sudeikis. Feeling a bit too scripted, he is the archetypal antihero with a bad temper, isolated from others and refusing to make friends with anyone. But in a clever twist, the birds of this island are all of the peaceful, non-angry variety taking issue with Red's easily annoyed personality, who's funnily sentenced to anger management after erupting to a family during a birthday party. The first meeting instructed by Matilda (Maya Rudolph) is one of the production's more memorable moments. It's essentially used for introducing audiences to fellow angry feathered friends: the yellow speedster canary Chuck (Josh Gad), an explosively sociable black bird Bomb (Danny McBride) and a much larger, unfriendly red cardinal named Terence (a grumpily huffing and puffing Sean Penn). As any astute viewer is able to predict, especially after the pigs kidnap all the island's eggs, their rage soon becomes the source of strength and inspiration for a rescue mission.
Unfortunately, for those expecting an epic battle with feathers flying everywhere and the squealing, oinking cries of the injured, 'The Angry Birds Movie' makes us wait until the last half hour. And even then, the war is over almost as quickly as it began, feeling rushed and as if tacked on at the last minute because suddenly the filmmakers remembered the point of adapting the game app. Admittedly, the first hour of the movie is littered with various gags and witty quips to make the first hour tolerable ("Pluck my life!" a resentful Red wails during his sentencing). Many of the jokes are also meant for the adults in the crowd while the little hatchlings squirming in their seats are hypnotized by the wide array of colors energizing the screen. That's not to say directors Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly, both in their directorial debuts, are not above resorting to the usual parade of off-color humor. Why not have the heroic, majestic Mighty Eagle (perfectly voiced by Peter Dinklage) use a pond as his toilet, which others confuse for a birth bath. So yeah, the jokes don't always land smoothly and as gracefully as expected, but in a plot that features an island of flightless birds, this CG animated film has some wings and hatches a satisfied smile.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment brings 'The Angry Birds Movie' to Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with a code for an UltraViolet Digital Copy. The first is a Region Free, BD50 disc sitting comfortably on the panel opposite a DVD-9 copy and housed inside a blue, eco-elite keepcase. At startup, the disc commences with a series of skippable trailers before switching to an animated menu with music and full-motion clips.
A whole flock of angry birds take flight on Blu-ray with a marvelous, reference-quality 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode that delivers on every level and is easily one of the finest presentations we've seen this year. Most apparent and expected is obviously the sumptuous array of colors. Pause it at any given time, every scene explodes with the fiery reds of Red and Terence, the lush greens of trees and grass, and the lively blues of the sky. The rest of the picture is showered with vivid secondary hues where viewers can plainly make out Matilda's subtle rosy cheeks, Judge Peckinpah's purplish feathers and various other tonal differences of each character. What I really loved best is seeing each beak smoothly change from yellowish tips to a darker orange shade. Spot-on contrast provides brilliant, crisp whites in the eyes, eggs and Eagle's head feathers while also allowing for incredible visibility in the far distance. Likewise, black levels are opulent and inky rich with stunning gradational differences in Bomb's feathers and the soft gray tones on Matilda, granting the video a lovely three-dimensional quality.
Presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the presentation continues to astound and amaze with razor sharp clarity from beginning to end. Most impressive is seeing the tiniest detail and distinct difference between each feather, moving individually with the wind or during certain actions. They may not exactly be true to life, but no matter the character, audiences will be able to appreciate the level of work and dedication that went into each of their creations. The photography comes with an interesting soft focus that's very subtle, but each blade of grass and leaf is distinct from one another while other plants and tree barks show minute, fine lines. The houses of the birds and the rickety housing of the pig kingdom even reveal how much effort went into creating this world, as walls show striking, lifelike textures and the most trivial of blemishes. The movie itself may not be the strongest, but it comes with one of the best high-def presentations of the year.
The animated film also debuts on home video with a splendid, demo-worthy DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack that will give anyone's system a nice workout. For the first half of the movie, it doesn't seem like much is going on, but the design is littered with a variety of faint atmospherics occupying the surrounds. Leaves rustle in the wind, the center of town is bustling with commotion and waves can softly be heard at night when Red goes home alone. The soundtrack really comes alive when Leonard and his pig entourage arrive on the island and put on a funny circus show, as birds cheer loudly with excited approval. Things dramatically improve from there and for the remainder of the show, as the pigs begin to grow comfortable in the town and turn the once-quiet island into a crowded city with rushing traffic. When the birds invade, the entire room erupts with explosions and fiery chaos while the debris from collapsing structures discretely falls everywhere, creating a terrifically immersive 360° soundfield.
Of course, being an animated family comedy, a majority of the action takes place in the front soundstage where the music and song selections enjoy the breathing room and individual instruments are heard with excellent acoustics and distinction. Imaging is broad and expansive with convincing off-screen effects and superb separation between the channels, generating an effectively engaging wall of sound that’s continuous. If the funny vehicles of the pigs are not darting across the screen, then the birds flawlessly pan from left to right and big chunks of debris rain down everywhere, thanks to an extensive and richly detailed mid-range. Though not earth-shattering, the low-end is amazingly deep and powerful, providing palpable, responsive weight to the action and explosions with awesome rumbling effects that resonate throughout the room. Vocals are pristine and precise in the center with the smallest change in intonation perfectly heard, even during the loudest and most violent segments.
While the idea of a movie based on a smartphone app seems at first disconcerting, 'The Angry Birds Movie' turns out better and more charming than initially expected. From a script by Jon Vitti and a whole flock of voice talents, the film cleverly imagines an island of flightless birds where anger can be a resourceful strength for saving everyone's eggs from a gang of green, hungry, marauding pigs. The Blu-ray arrives with a fantastic, reference-quality audio and video presentation that delivers an explosive feast for the eyes and a smashing treat for the ears. With a decently healthy assortment of supplements for the hatchlings in the family, the overall package hatches a recommendation.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.