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Siraj Syed


Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 

 

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Angry Birds Movie 2, Review: And angry birdwatchers 2

Angry Birds Movie 2, Review: And angry birdwatchers 2

To even begin getting lightly entertained, you will have to sit through the first twenty minutes of Angry Birds Movie 2, which are a cacophonic assault on your senses. During this testing time, you are served a machine-gun fire recap and a kind of general introduction to the birds and pigs that are going to play out a tale of spurned birdy love and its calamitous consequences. Proceedings do get more and more tolerable, and offer a modicum of fun, as the film progresses, but by then it is too late to elevate it to any respectable height.

Three islands are the core locations for the story: Bird Island, Piggy Island and a hitherto unknown island. Piggy Island was destroyed in a prior battle with the birds, but has been since rebuilt. Their warring continues. In the midst of mutual hostilities, an ice ball from a nearby isle, later identified as Eagle Island, because all its inhabitants are eagles, hits the sea, near Piggy Island, forcing the pigs to seek a truce with the birds, and launch a joint effort to deal with Eagle Island. Zeta, the leader of Eagle Island, is fed up with her frozen surroundings, and wants to occupy the two islands, by shooting ice balls, to force their inhabitants to evacuate.

Meanwhile, three hatchlings, one of whom is Terence and Matilda’s daughter Zoe, plan to act in a play, using three eggs, of Zoe’s sisters-to-be, at a beach, but the eggs drift out to sea by accident. They set sail to retrieve them, but once they catch up to them, a whale blows them high in the air and they are cushioned by a cloud. The three manage to get them down after inflating (!) Zoe into the air, but then misplace the eggs again.

Chuck and Bomb force the lonely and depressed Red to join them in a speed-dating activity. Red meets Chuck's sister Silver, an intelligent engineering student, who analyses him and finds him incompatible. He is happy to be rid of her. Leonard, the King of Piggy Island, lands-up at Red’s house and convinces him to build an alliance with the pigs against the attacking Eagles. A team meeting in Mighty Eagle’s cave (he lives on Bird Island) is disrupted when an ice ball hits Eagle Mountain and destroys it, though the team survives. Mighty Eagle is terrified at the very mention of Eagle Island and opts out of the mission. Red, Bomb, Chuck, Silver and Leonard form the core team, to work out a plan for reaching Eagle Island and dismantling the Eagles’ weaponry.

Peter Ackerman (animator; Ice Age), Eyal Podell (actor; Cars 3) and Jonathon E. Stewart (Cars 3, Smallfoot; Podell’s partner) have scripted the film version, the second for the Angry Birds video games franchise, owned by Rovio Entertainment. It is amply clear that they have banked on adult content to up the ante for the cute, wide/big-eyed, multi-coloured, fluffy birds and monochromatic pigs. In the process, the pranks turn out to be silly and stretch your imagination to its elastic limits. One particular scene in the toilet (where else? This is an American film), where a real eagle is relieving itself, and the team, dressed as an eagle, are trying to steal its access card, is in your face and anything but comic relief.

One disgruntled eagle, suffering from heart-break, wreaks vengeance on entire populations of birds and pigs, under the pretence of shifting her community to their islands, which have warm climes. Is that geographically possible? Do islands, only a bird-launched missile/telescope apart, have climates varying as much as ice and warmth? One-liners include things like, “You can hide it in any part of your body except one.” And this film is definitely aimed at children the age-group of 4-9.

Scenes involving the three hatchlings and the three eggs are hatched with no sense of logic, nor do they emanate from ‘cause-effect’ writing. It’s just trickery, like a magic show. Several scenes are devoted to this eggnominy, including the hatching of what are called snakelets (Ha! You did not know that, didja?) instead of the expected chicks. An Eagle is called Hawke (why not Ethan?) and his partner is called Zeta (Catherine Jones’ middle name). Another piece of name dropping is Halle Berry.

Popular song-dance tracks from the 1970s and 80s are used in a mistaken belief that melodies can cure maladies. They even have the eagle guards of the weapons base involved in a breakdance contest, allowing the intruders to slip in, not to mention the inclusion of a bird opera piece (“darling, you sing like a bird!”). Pigs going, “Oink, oink, oink…” and one character repeating, “Oh my Gaw” on every occasion meriting a reaction are ploys meant to make you laugh.

It just had to be a debut movie, given the rough edges, and it is, for director Thurop von Orman and co-director John Rice. Their idea of humour is a bunch of birds asking each other whether any of them wears pants, and getting the answer in the negative from each one of them. Aren’t pants supposed to be visible? When I try to diagnose the malaise, it becomes apparent that all the thinking that has gone into the screenplay and direction is that of adults trying to evoke children’s sense of humour by putting adult content in the physical manifestations of animals and birds cartoons.

Is having a child out of wedlock supposed to address the awareness of little kids? And are the makers suggesting that birds get formally married, exchanging vows? Devising ‘formulae’ to make ice balls filled with lava, with exact chemical permutation isn’t as funny as it is ridiculous and misleading. There is constant bickering between Red and Leonard about who is the leader of the mission. Isn’t such content going to muddle up the formative brains of the tiny tots?

Of course, one cannot speak with authority about how such young audiences will perceive the film, and likewise, one cannot make the preposterous suggestion that children’s content should be made by children themselves. Yet, hundreds of children’s films, made by adults of varying ages, have struck the right chords among both adults and children. Angry Birds Movie 2 is not one of them. Even at 96 minutes, it is frequently an endurance test.

An ensemble cast lends its voice to the plethora of non-human characters (there are no humans, mercifully), at all possible ages and of differing sizes, and does good job:

Jason Sudeikis—Red

Josh Gad—Chuck

Leslie Jones as the lisping Zeta

Bill Hader—Leonard

Rachel Bloom—Silver

Awkwafina—Courtney

Sterling K. Brown—Gary

Eugenio Derbez—Glenn

Danny McBride—Bomb

Peter Dinklage—Ethan/Mighty Eagle

Brooklynn Prince—Zoe

Tiffany Haddish—Debbie

Thurop von Orman—Duck, Seal

John Rice—Quad bird

Rating: * ½

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSKQ-lVsMdg

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.


Bandra West, Mumbai

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