In the 3D animated comedy, The Angry Birds Movie, we'll finally find out why the birds are so angry. The movie takes us to an island populated entirely by happy, flightless birds - or almost entirely. In this paradise, Red (Jason Sudeikis, We're the Millers, Horrible Bosses), a bird with a temper problem, speedy Chuck (Josh Gad in his first animated role since Frozen), and the volatile Bomb (Danny McBride, This is the End, Eastbound and Down) have always been outsiders. But when the island is visited by mysterious green piggies, it's up to these unlikely outcasts to figure out what the pigs are up to.
'The Angry Birds Movie' is evidence of how far we've come in the last three decades, that filmmaking has perhaps reached the pinnacle of its technological evolution. Movies based on video games played on traditional consoles seem dime a dozen, but this CG animated production marks the first full-length adaptation of a smartphone app. Living in an age where handheld devices exist is a marvel in and of itself, little computer apparatuses which have consumed a major part of our existence and have even become like an extension of ourselves — the world's most extensive film library at your fingertips. But possibly even more wondrous, as well as mind-boggling, is the fact that we've reached a milestone when such devices and their programs are now the source of inspiration for major film productions. It's too early to tell what it all entails and the damage, if any, it might have on the future of filmmaking, but if this is any indication of the quality it could give rise to, then the future isn't all that grim. There is definitely room for improvement, but it's a colorfully fun family flick with several shrewd gags just for the parents to delight in.
The game itself doesn't come with much of a plot in the first place, though the storyline is pretty straightforward. A gang of hungry pigs steal eggs from birds, and unsurprisingly, they seek angry revenge for the outrage. Ironically, they invade huffing and puffing to blow the pigs' houses down — or more like, destroy them with their heads and a slingshot. One of the challenges was expanding such a simple story into a more elaborate and involving plot, which I would argue the film mostly definitely does with amusing charm. From a story conjured up by three writers, the script is by Jon Vitti, whose long resume includes various episodes for 'King of the Hill,' 'The Larry Sanders Show' and 'The Simpsons,' including the movie adaptation. And it cutely, as well as smartly, reimagines the original premise as an isolated island inhabited by a variety of exotic birds that can't fly — and oddly, there aren't any chickens, ostriches or penguins in sight. This little tidbit is used as the winsome reason for characters later requiring a slingshot, which was comically introduced by Leonard/King Mudbeard (Bill Hader) and his marauding ship of pigs.
For those familiar with the game, which I would imagine is many reading this given the app's popularity, the main protagonist is a red cardinal, aptly named Red and voiced by Jason Sudeikis. Feeling a bit too scripted, he is the archetypal antihero with a bad temper, isolated from others and refusing to make friends with anyone. But in a clever twist, the birds of this island are all of the peaceful, non-angry variety taking issue with Red's easily annoyed personality, who's funnily sentenced to anger management after erupting to a family during a birthday party. The first meeting instructed by Matilda (Maya Rudolph) is one of the production's more memorable moments. It's essentially used for introducing audiences to fellow angry feathered friends: the yellow speedster canary Chuck (Josh Gad), an explosively sociable black bird Bomb (Danny McBride) and a much larger, unfriendly red cardinal named Terence (a grumpily huffing and puffing Sean Penn). As any astute viewer is able to predict, especially after the pigs kidnap all the island's eggs, their rage soon becomes the source of strength and inspiration for a rescue mission.
Unfortunately, for those expecting an epic battle with feathers flying everywhere and the squealing, oinking cries of the injured, 'The Angry Birds Movie' makes us wait until the last half hour. And even then, the war is over almost as quickly as it began, feeling rushed and as if tacked on at the last minute because suddenly the filmmakers remembered the point of adapting the game app. Admittedly, the first hour of the movie is littered with various gags and witty quips to make the first hour tolerable ("Pluck my life!" a resentful Red wails during his sentencing). Many of the jokes are also meant for the adults in the crowd while the little hatchlings squirming in their seats are hypnotized by the wide array of colors energizing the screen. That's not to say directors Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly, both in their directorial debuts, are not above resorting to the usual parade of off-color humor. Why not have the heroic, majestic Mighty Eagle (perfectly voiced by Peter Dinklage) use a pond as his toilet, which others confuse for a birth bath. So yeah, the jokes don't always land smoothly and as gracefully as expected, but in a plot that features an island of flightless birds, this CG animated film has some wings and hatches a satisfied smile.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment brings 'The Angry Birds Movie' to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray as a three-disc combo pack with a code for an UltraViolet Digital Copy. At the moment, we are unable to verify the size of the content, but the double-layered UHD66 disc sits comfortably opposite a pair of Region Free, BD50 discs. One sits on a center spindle while the other on the opposing panel, but of more interest is the fact that one of those Blu-rays contains a 3D version of the movie, which apparently is the only way to own it on the format.
All three discs are packaged inside a black, slightly thicker than normal keepcase with a glossy slipcover. At startup, the disc goes straight to an interactive main menu that changes screens when switching between the usual options while music plays in the background. The 3D disc commences with a series of skippable trailers before switching to a 3D menu with music and full-motion clips.
The entire flock of angry birds take flight on Ultra HD Blu-ray with a marvelous, near-reference HEVC H.265 encode in HDR10 that delivers a gorgeously stunning presentation and comes with a variety of demo-worthy moments. Granted, the CG-animated film was originally rendered in 2K resolution, but when the transfer is done right and with care, the results yield a fantastic upgrade over the Blu-ray.
Compared to its standard HD counterpart, the video astounds and amazes with definition and clarity that's slightly sharper, showing more distinction between each filoplume and the tiny hairs on the pigs bodies. The photography comes with an interesting soft focus that's very subtle, but each blade of grass and leaf is distinct from each other while plants and tree barks show minute, fine lines. Large boulders are covered in light scratches, minor depressions and minute indentations. The houses of the birds and the rickety housing of the pig kingdom even reveal how much effort went into creating this world, as walls show striking, lifelike textures and the most trivial of blemishes. Sadly, as seems like a common case of 2K elements upconverted to 4K, aliasing occasionally rears its ugly head along the sharpest edges of buildings and a few scattered leaves. It's not enough to disappoint or distract, but it's there nonetheless.
However, the presentation's real strength it the sumptuous array of colors, which shockingly are slightly brighter and deeper than the Blu-ray. What surprises the most is the mild differences between Red, whose coloring leans a little more orange, and Terrence, who shows a bit more magenta. Every scene is lush with green, from the trees and grass making up the majority of the island to the intense neon glow of the pigs. The lively blues of the sky are somehow brighter and animated while gently fading into pinkish blue-violets at sunset. The rest of the picture remains remarkable with vivid secondary colors energizing the 2160p transfer. Not only do Matilda's subtle rosy cheeks glow, but her body comes with some light grayish tones that almost make her look silvery. Judge Peckinpah's purplish rings around his eyes are distinctly different from the more bluish feathers atop his head while the yellow of Chuck's body is more true to life than before, and various other tonal differences just light up the screen. Most impressive is seeing each beak smoothly change from bright yellowish tips to a darker orange shade.
Presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the presentation debuts with luxurious, inky rich blacks throughout, gleaming with splendid differences between the lighter and darker portions of the frame. Viewers can plainly make out Bomb's pitch-black feathers fade into his gray tummy, and the darkest shadows reveal every minutia and feature, providing the image with a marvelous three-dimensional appeal. Contrast is right on the money and pristine, allowing for remarkable visibility into the far distance. The picture shows stunning variation between the eyes, Eagle's head feathers and the snow atop mountains where the slightest disparity in the shadows add some realism. Whites are radiant and ecstatic with brilliant luminosity, providing the fluffy clouds an amazing, realistic glow. Even more impressive are specular highlights shimmering off the clouds, the edges of buildings in Pig City and some of the metal pieces of Leonard pirate ships. A spectacular demo scene is when Chuck and Bomb swim in pond when the light glistens and sparkles off the water with more lifelike clarity and amazing detail than in HD, making it a gorgeous Ultra HD Blu-ray for showing off to friends.
The animated film also jumps up a level and crashes on home video with a great and satisfying Dolby Atmos soundtrack. But interestingly, unlike its DTS-HD MA counterpart, this UHD disc doesn't seem to take full advantage of the object-based audio format. Nevertheless, it is thoroughly enjoyable and complements the animated film splendidly.
The reason for my hesitation is the overall lack of overhead activity, but various faint atmospherics keep the surrounds busy. Just as on the Blu-ray, the soundtrack really comes alive when Leonard and his pig entourage arrive on the island and put on a funny circus show, as birds cheer loudly with excited approval. It's not until the second half of the movie when things dramatically improve, as the pigs begin to grow comfortable in the town and turn the once-quiet island into a crowded city with rushing traffic. Some of that bustling noise echoes into the ceiling speakers, but the best moment is when the birds invade Pig City. The entire room erupts with explosions and fiery chaos while the debris from collapsing structures discretely falls all around and above the listening area, creating a terrifically immersive, dome-like soundfield for the final half hour of the movie.
For the first hour, a majority of the action takes place in the front soundstage where the music and song selections decidedly benefit most from the upgrade, persuasively spreading into the height channels and bleeding into the surrounds. Individual instruments are heard with excellent acoustical detail and distinction. Imaging is broad and expansive with convincing off-screen effects and superb separation between the channels, generating an effectively engaging wall of sound that’s continuous. If the funny vehicles of the pigs are not darting across the screen, then the birds flawlessly pan from left to right and big chunks of debris rain down everywhere, thanks to an extensive and richly detailed mid-range. Though not earth-shattering, the low-end is amazingly deep and powerful, providing palpable, responsive weight to the action and explosions with awesome rumbling effects that resonate throughout the room. Vocals are pristine and precise in the center with the smallest change in intonation perfectly heard, even during the loudest and most violent segments.
While the idea of a movie based on a smartphone app seems at first disconcerting, 'The Angry Birds Movie' turns out better and more charming than initially expected. From a script by Jon Vitti and a whole flock of voice talents, the film cleverly imagines an island of flightless birds where anger can be a resourceful strength for saving everyone's eggs from a gang of green, hungry, marauding pigs.
On the plus side, this Ultra HD Blu-ray arrives with a fantastic, near-reference 4K video presentation although unfortunately, it also comes with a minor but noticeable issue worth noting. Still, the film also receives a nice upgrade with a great Dolby Atmos audio presentation, along with the same collection of supplements. However, making the overall package worth checking out is the addition of a 3D Blu-ray of the movie available only in this UHD package, which is sure to please enthusiastic early adopters.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.