When I heard about The Angry Birds Movie I thought it might signify the "peak" of something. Peak badness. Peak commercialism. Peak synergy or vertical integration or some other business concept I don't completely understand. Based entirely on the most downloaded game in mobile history, The Angry Birds Movie manages to scrape a surprisingly entertaining story out of an incredibly basic premise: the birds, they're angry. Not Hitchcock angry but definitely Zazu from The Lion King angry. More frustrated, miffed.
I don't know why I was so outraged by the concept - it's not as if making a film based on a gaming product is anything new. I still remember the 1985 film Clue, a camp murder-mystery caper based on the happenings in Cluedo, making an appearance at sleepovers. Silent Hill is another classic, a terrible but terrifying horror film based on the survival PlayStation game.
Chuck Angelina's triumphant Tomb Raider in with The Lego Movie and call it a damn genre. (Sidenote: I still don't know where Jumanji sits in this canon, but I'm sure as heck too scared to roll the dice if I ever find that game in a weathered old treasure chest.)
So does the animated Angry Birds Movie catapult itself to glory, toppling over the other ugly pigs of the game-as-film genre (Pixels)? On paper, it's pretty much the dream premise for a kids' film. If you haven't played the highly-addictive mobile game, the task is simple: using a catapult, you hurtle the birds at evil green pigs who are stealing eggs.
There are already established good guys, bad guys, bright colours and a difficult goal to achieve. Just add a soundtrack, really.
Jason Sudeikis voices the main character Red, an outcast on his home of Bird Island for his uncontrollable rage and poor eyebrow maintenance. The opening scene of the film shows him flipping his lid and being placed in bird anger management, welcomed by an infuriatingly serene Matilda (Maya Rudolph).
Joined by Angry Birds icons Chuck (Josh Gad) and Bomb (Danny McBride), he works through his internal problems as a greater problem washes ashore: the famed egg-stealing swine.
The local bird inhabitants are enamoured of their new curly-tailed visitors but Red is the only one who smells that something might be off. And he's right: the history books will tell you there is only one match for bacon: eggs.
The visiting pigs have come to clean out all the nests, which is a dark revelation to have - this means they are essentially stealing all the children. With help from his motley anger-management crew, and a mysterious hero voiced by a booming Peter Dinklage, the Angry Birds band together to bring their kids home.
With the loose plot in place, the film manages to seamlessly weave in gaming elements. There are catapult challenges, there is cartoon TNT and there are definitely
disturbing grinning pigs that make you want to yell expletives to the heavens. Writer John Vitti of The Simpsons fame brings a heavy dose of crackling humour, dotting rogue pop culture references among surreal throw-away gags (the pigs ripping off arseless chaps to country music) and gross biological humour (the mama bird spewing into her kids' lunchboxes).
A word of warning though - if you don't like bird puns, this might make you want to claw your eyes out.
While it's no Clue, The Angry Birds Movie surpassed my cynical expectations of what a movie based on a game can produce. It's lushly animated, genuinely hilarious at times and even comes with the all-important message about speaking up for what you believe in.
All that aside, the biggest measure of success is that I immediately downloaded the game as soon as I left the cinema. I lost the first level, so they definitely won the marketing war.