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App comes to life in "Angry Birds"

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Published: Fri, May 20, 2016 @ 12:05 a.m.


AP Film Writer

It’s hard not to have a few biases going into “The Angry Birds Movie.” In the most cynical view of what gets made in Hollywood, an addictive app might just be at the bottom of the pile, languishing there in suspicious squalor with movies adapted from board games and amusement park rides.

Comic books get away with the “it’s really about characters” justification. Even some video games have an essential story behind them. A puzzle game, though? You can’t even pretend.

The clever ones use this starting point as a blank slate on which to create something that is maybe cool, unexpected, or just not terrible. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are the current masters of this, implausibly crafting compelling stories out of the bleakest source material.

“The Angry Birds Movie” doesn’t quite achieve the relative superiority of “The Lego Movie,” but it’s definitely not terrible and even surprisingly fun and heartfelt at times.

It’s the directorial debut of veteran animator Clay Kaytis (“Frozen,” “Tangled”) and storyboard artist Fergal Reilly (”Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” “The Iron Giant”), who are working off a script from “The Simpsons” alum Jon Vitti. The concept is simple: How did the angry birds get so angry?

The short answer is they’re not angry by nature, more by circumstance. And at first, the angry ones are sort of the outcasts of this happy, bright little society of flightless birds and endless avian puns (“pluck my life”).

The story is centered on Red (Jason Sudeikis), a loner bird who is consistently aggravated by the minor inconveniences and annoyances of life on Bird Island – like someone sneezing close to his popcorn, or a kid kicking a ball against his house.

His bad luck and short temper land him in group therapy for anger management alongside some other volatile types, such as the manic Chuck (Josh Gad), the dimwitted Bomb (Danny McBride) and the bruiser Terence (whose grunts are supposedly the work of Sean Penn. And they all try to work through their issues with the free spirit instructor Matilda (Maya Rudolph).

The beginning is definitely the strongest, as we explore the humor and oddities of Bird Island and its quirky inhabitants. It starts to go downhill when the pigs arrive, although there is a fairly enjoyable diversion when Red, Chuck and Bomb go off in search of the mythical Mighty Eagle (Peter Dinklage) for help.

By the final showdown, the plot has lost most of its narrative steam, but that’s more a disclaimer for the parents than the tots who likely will delight in the unruliness.

Oh, and if it’s not obvious by now, the film is bursting with talent such as Kate McKinnon, Titus Burgess, Keegan-Michael Key, Tony Hale and Billy Eichner.

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