The Angry Birds Movie (3 stars)

The Angry Birds Movie

Jason Sudeikis and Peter Dinklage lend their voices to this cannily irreverent animation

As an angry bird arrives late to a kids’ party early on, are the makers of the phone game’s film upgrade slyly flaunting an awareness of cynics’ dismissals? The Angry Birds Movie lands too late to build on the game’s initial buzz, but it’s a savvier beast than the flightless flop expected. Even when the feather-light plot gets into a freeform flap, the trade-off is an energised kind of knowing, anarchic playfulness: the sort that favours spewed-up bird food gags over vomit-inducing homilies.

The puns actually being funny (‘free rage chicken’, ‘bird control’), these birds swiftly trounce Pixels in the game-to-movie stakes. As first-time directors Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly (a former animator and a storyboard artist) show how the gentle creatures first got grumpy, Wreck-It Ralph is a closer comparison. In origin tale style, the pace dawdles initially, but there’s good fun and bad poetry on hand as impulsive outcast Red (voiced by Jason Sudeikis) joins an anger management class. There he meets quicksilver canary Chuck (Josh ‘Olaf’ Gad), explosive Bomb (Danny McBride) and perma-fuming Terence – whose non-verbal grunts make an amusingly easy payday for Sean Penn (did he simply continue groaning about The Gunman’s reviews?).

The arrival of the devious green pigs ups the enjoyment, bringing first friendship then fighting. That’s about it plot-wise: we’re not talking Pixar or Ghibli here. But the film's progress is enlivened by madcap sight gags and hastened by writer Jon Vitti’s slingshot puns. If nods to Daft Punk and The Shining screech over their heads, kids’ll be having too much fun with the vigorously animated bird’s-eye-view attack on Piggy Island to care, or to worry about the ‘be yourself’ message.

Tellingly, the only ‘lake of wisdom’ here (belonging to the deliciously Peter Dinklage-voiced Mighty Eagle) is full of piss. Next to more earnest kids’ fare, Angry Birds’ flutter on irreverence seems a surprisingly canny game-play.

General release from Fri 13 May.

The Angry Birds Movie

  • 3 stars
  • 2016
  • 1h 37min
  • U
  • Directed by: Clay Kaytis/Fergal Reilly
  • Written by: Jon Vitti
  • Cast: Peter Dinklage, Kate McKinnon, Jason Sudeikis
  • UK release: 13 May 2016

Red (Sudeikis), a notably angry bird, joins an anger management class and makes some friends, but then green pigs arrive in the neighbourhood. Amusing if delayed adaptation of the smartphone game, with plenty of gags and puns for accompanying adults.