Red is no longer an angry bird (even if he still has those “angry” eyebrows), but the makers of this sequel to the 2016 hit based on the then phenomenally popular app and video game apparently considered that no reason to alter a title that still resonates. And despite Red’s changed perspective on life, they’ve tried to replicate the previous movie as much as possible not only through character carryover but another scenario that culminates in an assault on a seemingly impregnable fortress—in a good cause, of course.
In the previous picture, directed by Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly from a script by Jon Vitti, Red (voiced by Jason Sudeikis) became a hero by foiling the attempt of underhanded Leonard (Bill Hader), the porcine leader of Pig Island, to steal all the eggs on Bird Island for the obvious gluttonous reasons. Now, in this one directed by Thurop Van Orman from a screenplay by Peter Ackerman, Eyal Podell and Jonathon E. Stewart, Red’s the beloved protector of Bird Island, constantly on guard against further assaults by Leonard. But he’s also a lonely guy, prodded by his pal, hyperkinetic speedster Chuck (Josh Gad), to seek a girlfriend at a speed-dating session. There he’s put off by the attitude of brainy Silver (Rachel Bloom), who pricks his oversized sense of self-importance.
All that’s forgotten, though, with the arrival of a truce offer from Leonard, who proposes that Birds and Pigs form an alliance against a common threat from the hitherto-unknown Eagle Island, an ice-covered realm whose tyrannical ruler Zeta (Leslie Jones) intends to conquer both of the other realms and transform them into a playground for herself. To that end she’s weaponized a volcano to shoot huge ice bombs at the other islands.
So Red and Leonard form a “Dirty Dozen”-like team to go to Eagle Island and foil Zeta’s dastardly plot by taking her ice cannon off-line. The other enlistees are Chuck, Silver, monster bird Bomb (Danny McBride), reclusive coward Mighty Eagle (Peter Dinklage), Leonard’s assistant Courtney (Awkwafina) and pig scientist Garry (Sterling K. Brown). All their efforts—including an extended episode in which Chuck, Garry and Courtney dress up in an eagle outfit to gain entrance to the war room while the others try different approaches—are of course convoluted.
None of them work, though, until interventions by Mighty Eagle, who makes a confession about his past life, and by a group of hatchlings led by Zoe (Brooklynn Prince), daughter of anger-management specialist Matilda (Maya Rudolph), who have simultaneously been having their own separate adventure trying to retrieve several eggs they’ve accidentally let float out to sea.
All this allows for plenty of slapstick set-pieces and groan-inducing throwaway jokes (e.g., a book titled “Crazy Rich Avians”), but provides room for messaging as well. Silver, for instance, doesn’t just provide a romantic interest for Red, but serves as the embodiment of the strong woman who’s the equal, if not the superior, of any male of the species. If anybody’s dense enough to miss the point, Zeta enunciates it brassily, literally screaming—Jones’s delivery of all her dialogue is the very opposite of subtle—that men are inevitably frightened of strong women.
Then there’s the constant stream of pop songs—the movie is practically a jukebox musical—that often lead into an extended dance number, including a “dance–off” between Zeta’s eagle guards and that fake interloper of Chuck’s that’s meant to be hilarious but simply seems overextended. Naturally space is made for the obligatory potty humor, too, including a sequence set in a men’s room that’s actually rather sniggering and snide. Just hope the kids don’t get any ideas.
The voice work is variable here. Sudeikis is again fairly restrained, but Hader certainly isn’t. He’s a piker, though, compared to Jones, who belts out her unfunny lines as though she were detonating bombs as big as the ones Zeta is launching. The other irritating contributor is Gad, but it’s not so much his fault as that of the character he’s playing—as in the first outing, Chuck is exhaustingly obnoxious. Bloom, on the other hand, is nicely feminine. The rest are fine, though many from whom one might expect something more—like Tiffany Haddish as Zeta’s daughter Debbie—are given little opportunity to register.
The movie looks bright and spiffy—the folks at Sony Animation and Rovio have replicated the colorful visuals of its predecessor (and its other-medium precursors)—and although the result is sometimes oppressive to the eye, it certainly carries an impact.
The result is a movie that’s not foul enough to make you angry, but certainly not inventive enough to bring much more than an occasional smile. Except for Mighty Eagle, of course, these birds are all unable to fly; and like them, despite a flurry of activity it never really takes wing.
“Angry Birds 2” is preceded by a nifty short called “Hair Love,” directed by Matthew A. Cherry, Everett Downing Jr. and Bruce W. Smith from Cherry’s script, in which a father tries to give his little daughter the hairdo she wants. It’s a charming little vignette that turns poignant at the close, and many will prefer it to the feature that follows—and understandably so.