A few years back, when the project was first announced, all of the conversation surrounding the blatant cash grab seemed to be something to the tune of, “Ugh, they’re making an Angry Birds movie?” Now, the chatter has devolved into the even more exasperated, “They’re making another one?!” Perhaps Sony Pictures Animation is simply protecting their investment, or, God forbid, they listened to the critics, but the studio actually appears to have taken more care with the sequel. The Angry Birds Movie 2 is surprisingly inoffensive (for a soulless corporate product based on a smartphone app, that is), a vast improvement over its eye-roll-inducing predecessor, but still exhibiting all the tell-tale signs of lower-tier children’s entertainment.
Following the old hat sequel formula in which former enemies must team up to fight a strange and unfamiliar evil that threatens both of their livelihoods, the story finds Red (Jason Sudeikis) and Leonard (Bill Hader) forming an unlikely alliance. When Bird and Pig Island face the looming threat of a newly discovered third realm, the two civilizations must put aside their differences to ward off an invasion of ice-wielding eagles, led by Zeta (Leslie Jones).
The jokes here are very much of the quantity-over-quality variety, mostly settling for low-hanging fruit (namely, gross-out body humor and questionable innuendo, with plenty of 90s call-backs for the parents in the audience). However, the manic energy of The Angry Birds Movie 2—in quick, isolated bursts—is reminiscent of Looney Tunes in its best moments. Loud and colorful, this is a film that knows its audience. And the humor is much better integrated into the story this time around. Still, the adults in the crowd will have a hard time ignoring the fact that they are watching a crop of of-the-moment celebrities asked to play the most basic version of the one note they’re most famous for delivering on command.
As such, this is the cinematic equivalent of cotton candy. Kids will eat it up if you put this in front of them, even if there’s no real substance to it. They won’t remember it in a year’s time, but they’ll enjoy themselves in the moment. There’s an unshakeable TV quality to the movie. The enormous voice cast who showed up for an easy payday (and the $350 million the first one took in at the box office, technically making it the third highest-grossing video game film of all time) seems to be the only thing keeping this from being a streaming-only release. It’s a shame that more energy wasn’t put into this, although not nearly as much of a shame as it is that this is the first time Awkwafina and Tiffany Haddish share the silver screen.
As we’ve seen with films from Clue to The Lego Movie, in the right hands, you can truly make a decent movie out of absolutely anything. The only catch is that you have to try, and the Angry Birds movies rarely do. Predictable and bland, The Angry Birds Movie 2 certainly hits the benchmark it sets for itself, even if that’s a bar so low you could almost trip over it. Calling this sequel harmless and serviceable may feel like damning it with faint praise, and it is, but anyone who sat through the original will understand why that’s a bit of a draw in itself.