The Angry Birds Movie 2 ***
Dir: Thurop van Orman. Animation with the voices of: Jason Sudeikis, Bill Hader, Awkwafina, Leslie Jones. 96 mins. Cert: U
Sony Animation’s The Angry Birds Movie surprised many three years ago by a) not being terrible, and b) actually being quite fun in a disposable way – the zappiest attempt at brand extension this side of The Lego Movie. The sequel tempts fate by pausing the innately funny (because wholly illogical) war between birds and pigs in order to pit both factions against new predators from the neighbouring Eagle Island. Yet incoming director Thurop van Orman approaches this expanded universe with something of the visual ambition of Pixar’s non-feathered Brad Bird, and a restless, playful spirit reminiscent of sometime Sony employees Lord and Miller’s Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs films. The birds are no longer as irate as they once were, but the franchise appears to have levelled up.
The original itched to get past its origin story and onto pixelating the game’s parrot-slinging. Film two pushes further into action territory, diversifying its carnival of candy-coloured animals – again headed by fiery avian Red (voiced by Jason Sudeikis) and porcine blowhard Leonard (Bill Hader) – with such newcomers as Awkwafina’s clever bird Courtney, then staging a digimated Eiger Sanction as our heroes scale the eagles’ ice fortress to face the vengeful Zeta (Leslie Jones). Three credited writers have been let off the leash in truffling for gags, as evidenced by a B-plot that pitches three fledglings into space while recovering stray eggs: essentially a replay of the Ice Ages’ proven squirrel-and-nut business, but with ample scene-by-scene invention to distinguish it.
As in its predecessor, a lot gets thrown at the screen – Nicki Minaj is but the 19th billed voice artist – and not everything zings: there are some (perhaps knowingly) lame references to dabbing and “resting bird face”. Yet this is one sequel you can’t fault for trying, and the duds are outnumbered by many more jokes that are just cute, smart or screwy enough to nudge out a laugh. The budget licences at least a half-dozen of the choicest, funniest soundtrack cues of any recent animation: the use of Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville” over a montage depicting frozen Eagle Island life is swiftly topped by a Paula Cole nod in a Nineties-set flashback. Still no word on why the pigs are green, but even that now looks intrinsic to how these loony toons have upturned convention and expectation.
The Angry Birds Movie 2 opens in cinemas nationwide today.