By: Kevin Jordan
You recognize this film by the way it hits your windshield.
A hallmark of a good PG movie is an ability to appeal to both kids and adults. Smart writing and mature jokes for the adults; smart writing, bright colors, and silliness for the kids. Pixar has mastered the art of blending all of those things together. Look no further than Toy Story 4, a movie about a talking spork. Then, you have Sony Pictures Animation, who apparently have never seen a Pixar movie and are still trying to get it right. They did a great job with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (with an assist from Marvel), but also foisted The Emoji Movie on us. Unfortunately, The Angry Birds Movie 2 is far more Emoji Movie than Spider-Man.
What makes The Angry Birds Movie 2 so bad is that it lacks any kind of coherence. My son goes into some plot detail below, but he leaves how many things that happen don’t make any sense. For example, when the birds and piggies are trying to sneak into the eagle’s super weapon, they need Bomb to distract the guards. The very next thing we see is Bomb and a bunch of eagles drinking in a bar together. Umm, huh? In another scene, there is a random dance-off. Then, there are the times when a difficult problem is simply taken care of off-screen. Or when the islands inexplicably move closer, to the point that they are visible to each other by the naked eye (kudos to my son for noticing that one). Or doubling down on the worst characteristics of characters (Mighty Eagle being an idiot and coward; Bomb being an idiot and eating weird things like pig snot and dirt). Or not using anything that was set up earlier in the film or franchise (piggy gadgets introduced to help them on their quest or Chuck routinely forgetting that he is really fast).
In short, The Angry Birds Movie 2 is a film so terrible my wife fell asleep for half of it (which is amazing given how much trouble my wife typically has sleeping in normal places, let alone a loud theater). I too was very disappointed in this film, laughing at parts that were only funny in the most basic and obvious of ways, not because they were good or clever jokes. Now, let’s find out what a seven-year old thought about it.
This is what our sequel looks like?!
If you could describe this movie with one word, what would it be?
New. Because the third island is actually kinda new, because they never saw it before. So it’s kinda new. And the movie is a new movie.
There’s a third island? What are the first two?
Bird Island and Piggy Island.
Those are from the first movie?
What’s the third island called?
I don’t remember.
Well, who lives on the third island?
So, tell me about Eagle Island. What’s it like?
It’s like a giant mountain, and part of the mountain has this cannonball shooter. The Something Weapon that I don’t remember…the Super Weapon! That shoots out lava balls…made of ice…and it inserts lava IN the ice balls. They shoot them out, and it hits either Bird Island or Piggy Island.
So are they shooting at Bird Island and Piggy Island on purpose?
To destroy the island….and then take over the island.
Why do they want to do that?
Because it’s really cold at Eagle Island, and they need a warm place.
Or because they are forced to dance for no reason.
Okay. So why don’t they use the lava to heat up Eagle Island?
Well, it’s just in one place….it’ll flood the whole building….and it’ll kill all the eagles. Because lava kills people.
Who is the leader of the eagles?
Mighty Eagle’s girlfriend. Zeta.
Mighty Eagle has a girlfriend?!
From when he was younger.
So what did you like about the first Angry Birds Movie?
That it was…..um……ummmm….that it was funny. And kind of realistic. Kiiiiind of.
Would you say the second movie was funny and realistic?
Yeah, because it has a lot of textures.
You mean in the animation?
So, the animation was really good. Was it as funny as the first movie?
What are the birds and piggies doing, now that they’re being shot at by Eagle Island?
They take this really small submarine…..and THEN, they push a random button and THEN [jumps high on the couch] there’s a huge part under the submarine!!
Are they working together or do they still hate each other?
They’re working together.
Do you like that they’re working together?
I like them working together. Because of the third island, which is a BAD island.
Are the same characters there?
Most of them. There are new ones.
Who’s your favorite new character?
…this is going to be a really funny answer. You can probably guess this one. …Mighty Eagle’s girlfriend! Zeta!
Zeta reminds me of those red birds in Labyrinth that could pop their heads off. If only…
Why is she your favorite?
Because her daughter has Queen Whatevra’s voice from Lego Movie 2. And that’s why I like her. And Zeta was really funny and weird looking.
So are the birds all angry?
Well, SOME of them. Because eagles are birds.
Is Red still really angry?
Yeah. Because he’s an angry bird…and that’s the title of the movie.
Is he also funny?
Kiiiiiiind of. Funny from the first movie. But not so funny in the second movie.
Are there any new angry birds?
Was Silver a good character?
Because she plays Jinx. She’s really smart and cool and creative.
What was your favorite part of the movie?
My second favorite part is Gary.
Who is Gary?
Gary is a butler from the leader of the pigs.
My son thought Gary the scientist was a butler because that’s how well the film used Gary’s character.
What’s your favorite thing that happened in the movie?
The giant submarine. [sings] the yellow submarine!
Do you wish there were pigs that look like the Beatles in the yellow submarine?
That would be funny. And ridiculous.
Which movie did you like more?
The second. …Because there are new characters. And they were cool characters. ….ehh…I got nothing.
Do you think parents will like the movie?
Do you think other kids will like the movie?
Rating: Do you think the movie is worth regular price, more price, or less price?
Just a regular, probably.
Because it wasn’t as good as the first one. And that’s why. …I dunno….i’ll give ‘em a more. A MORE!
Well, just because of the animation.
By: Kevin Jordan
Whose side are you on?
(It’s award consideration season and I’m playing catch-up. As I tear through them, I thought I’d try mini-reviews. Enjoy!)
About seventeen minutes into Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, Sheriff Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) has the following exchange with distraught mother Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) whose daughter was raped and murdered months earlier and who erected three billboards questioning the police’s job performance because she is pissed at the sheriff for not arresting anybody for the crime:
Willoughby: “I’d do anything to catch the guy who did it, Mrs. Hayes. But when the DNA don’t match no one who’s ever been arrested, and when the DNA don’t match any other crime nationwide, and when there wasn’t a single eyewitness from the time she left your house to the time we found her, well, right now there ain’t too much more that we can do except…”
Mildred: “Could pull blood from every man and boy in this town over the age of eight.”
Willoughby: “There’s civil rights laws prevents that, Mrs. Hayes, and what if he was just passing through town…”
Mildred: “Pull blood from ever’ man in the country, then.”
Willoughby: “And what if he was just passing through the country?”
Mildred: “If it was me, I’d start up a database, every male baby what’s born, stick ‘em on it, cross-reference it, and as soon as they done something wrong, make a hundred-per-cent certain it was a correct match, then kill ’em.”
Willoughby: “Yeah, well, there’s definitely civil rights laws prevents that.”
Prior to that exchange, writer/director Martin McDonagh had us fully on Mildred’s side and thinking the sheriff was a lazy dick. After that exchange, we’re hooked by this film because we have no idea who we’re supposed to be rooting for. Of course we want justice for Mildred and her daughter, but the sheriff makes some damned good points and sounds like he really tried to find the killer. This is the epitome of a movie that is constantly pulling you from one side to the other and not just with the main plot. Every character in this movie, from Mildred’s son Lucas (Robbie Hayes) to angry and racist officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell) to billboard proprietor Red (Caleb Landry Jones) to others, are multi-faceted, rich characters that will take your initial allegiances and stomp on them. Then, they’ll stomp on them again just to make sure you weren’t getting comfortable again. It’s a rare movie that can make you root for everyone and no one at the same time
Rating: Don’t ask for any money back. Mildred didn’t after Willoughby’s speech so neither should you.
By: Kevin Jordan
Movies for me and other nerds.
As I write this review, the approval rating for Pixels on Rotten Tomatoes is dropping before my very eyes. It currently sits at 13% (down from 17% last night) and all I can do is feel sorry for the 87% of critics who are dead inside. Yes, it’s an Adam Sandler movie, and almost all Sandler movies are about as fun as rectal exams, but Pixels isn’t like other Sandler movies – it’s about classic arcade games brought to life. Don’t get me wrong, Pixels follows the same basic formula and includes many of the same (often dumb) elements as his other films, but in Pixels, Sandler isn’t the main focus like he is in all his other movies (despite writer Tim Herlihy’s best efforts), the video games are. Like I said, you really have to be dead inside not to have at least a little fun watching Pixels.
(There are SPOILERS coming, though really the only SPOILERS are which games show up when. Considering the trailers, it’s almost impossible for me to spoil it more.)
The film begins in 1982 with the child versions of the four gamers that are our main characters at an arcade game tournament. Sam (Sandler) faces off against Eddie (Peter Dinklage) for the championship, while Sam’s best friend, Will (Kevin James), and Sam’s new friend, Ludlow (Josh Gad), cheer him on. Sam loses and grows up to be an electronics installer (think Best Buy Geek Squad) because that’s what happens to video game losers in lazily written scripts featuring Sandler. Conversely, Will grows up to become the President of the United States, even though he is terrible at video games and can barely read (I wish I was making that up). Because making an illiterate tub of fat the King of the World would be absurd.
The writing gets worse with regards to Sam and Will’s difficult-to-swallow relationship, as President Will spends an inordinate amount of time with Sam while simultaneously telling Sam that his wife is complaining that Will doesn’t spend any time with her. Sam is even on a first-name basis with White House guards and Secret Service agents so as to set up a metaphorical dick measuring contest with the female Lt. Colonel Violet Van Patten (Michelle Moynihan). I could go on, but the point is that much of the lazy script is devoted to setting up cheap jokes that are a staple of Sandler comedies without said jokes being relevant to the plot (or even the premise).
Speaking of lazy writing, Van Patten may be one of the worst characters ever written and not just in movies. I’ve met a few Lt. Colonels in real life, and not one of them would ever be found drinking wine and crying in a closet (because her husband cheated on her) while a strange man installed a television in her living room. And that’s how we meet her. You have to give credit to Moynihan for even taking such a thankless role, especially knowing Violet would be the standard love interest of Sandler’s character and, therefore, being no more than a pair of talking breasts.
Anyway, the film gets to the point when aliens attack a military base. Will calls Sam to have him look at footage of the attack and Sam concludes that they were attacked by Galaga. Naturally, nobody believes him (including a ridiculously hammy Brian Cox playing a General). Soon, the aliens attack again (this time, the Taj Mahal) in the form of Space Invaders. Meanwhile, in one of the very few clever moments of the film, the aliens send them a video message in the form of Ronald Reagan telling them that they received the humans’ declaration of war (a video containing footage of the 1982 arcade tournament). Additionally, the aliens set out the rules of the game (clever moment number 2) – the first to win three battles wins the other race’s planet (or gets to destroy it). This sets up the rest of the film’s scenes – Pacman, Donkey Kong, and Centipede – and the extremely predictable ending.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it’s hard to overemphasize how truly lazy the writing was. To begin with, Sean Bean makes a cameo as a British military commander, but doesn’t die. How do you fuck that one up? (Screenwriting 101: Sean Bean Always Dies.) Then there’s the matter of some of the games literally just being projected into the sky (like Centipede) or in spaceships. Pacman was built into the streets of New York and its ghosts played by our gamers in different colored Mini Coopers; why weren’t the other games incorporated into the environment? Is Herlihy really so creatively bankrupt? Did it not occur to anyone to survey a group a fifth graders for ideas? Am I asking rhetorical questions?
The laziness gets worse in the form of 80’s homages we get throughout the movie that shouldn’t have been there. They tell us the video the aliens received was from 1982, so why did we see Max Headroom (1984), Where’s the Beef? (1984), and the Duck Hunt dog (1984) (among others)? We even see a kid donning Daniel Larusso’s headband and performing a crane kick at the ’82 tournament even though The Karate Kid came out in 1984. Apparently, Herlihy forgot what year he wrote for the tournament and Happy Madison Productions doesn’t employ fact checkers or researchers or editors. Or people older than 30.
But to top it all off, Herlihy literally invented a video game called Dojo Quest, featuring a scantily clad Ashley Bensen, solely so Gad can make out with her. Because if there’s anything we can rely on in Sandler movies (especially those written by Herlihy – seriously, check out his writing credits), it’s that dumb fat guys, or losers, or dumb fat losers always get to kiss hot women.
Despite everything I just said about this film, I actually did have fun watching it. Not because of Sandler or James, but because of Gad, Dinklage, and nostalgia. While Dinklage’s character was nearly as hammed up as Cox’s General, there are times at which his smarm made me laugh out loud, bad Cajun(?) accent notwithstanding. Gad was even funnier and was probably the reason most people were laughing in this movie. But the real reason I liked it is because the film brought to life games I loved as a kid without taking a total dump on them (excusing Q*Bert peeing himself, that is. That was awful). When it comes to an Adam Sandler flick, I think that’s all you can really hope for.
Rating: Ask for all but two dollars back. This movie is the very definition of what I call Movies for Me. *I* would pay for it, but you probably shouldn’t.