I’m “biast” (con): hated the first one
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
Why Angry Birds 2? Because the first one made some money. Because there’s built-in name recognition thanks to the popular mobile game. That’s it. That’s the only reason.
This time out, the Birds That Don’t Fly (except by slapstick catapult) join forces with the enemy green pigs from another remote island — seriously, don’t ask — to repel an assault by the eagles of yet another island none of them knew about before. This assault is led by Zeta (the voice of Leslie Jones: Sing), for no apparent reason other than a jilted romance that left her angry and bitter. Just like a woman!
Angry bird Red (the voice of Jason Sudeikis: Booksmart) — still selfish and insecure, just like we want in a hero — will lead the charge, the entire purpose of which is, apparently, to prove that he should have, in fact, left all leadership duties to smart, capable Silver (the voice of Rachel Bloom). But never fear! Male-coded animated characters remain resolutely at the center of this painfully stupid faux-woke narrative, which wants to have its male protagonist and its nods to feminism at the same time.
Spoiler: There’s nothing progressive about an idiot male protagonist with no plan to save the day being assisted by the female character who could have just been the hero in the first place. No, not even if he eventually grudgingly acknowledges this. Nor is there anything amusing in Speedy bird Chuck (the voice of Josh Gad: A Dog’s Journey) policing his sister Silver’s romantic access to Red. Nor is it even remotely charming that the brilliant, awesome Silver does indeed end up falling for petulant, mediocre Red. It’s just more of the same garbage that sends appalling gendered messages to kids. They are listening, and they are absorbing, and they deserve better.
In the US, the delightful short “Hair Love” precedes The Angry Birds Movie 2. It’s a little roller coaster of emotion, funny even about frustration, and at every moment full of a sweet joy about something seemingly mundane yet laden with significance. Backed by Kickstarter supporters and inspired by YouTube videos of African-American fathers doing their young daughters’ hair, filmmaker Matthew A. Cherry — who wrote and codirected with Everett Downing Jr. and Bruce W. Smith — has crafted a charming story about little Zuri, who has to wrangle her reluctant dad, Stephen, into helping her, for the first time ever, tame her unruly hair into a special style for a special day; Mom usually does this, but she’s not around today.
This is a wonderful celebration of natural black hair — some white people may not realize this has long been a vector along which black people have suffered discrimination, with many now championing natural hair — and a charming portrait of a lovely relationship between father and daughter. The poignant wallop it packs is wonderfully unforgettable. [There’s also a picture book! Amazon US|Amazon Canada|Amazon UK|iTunes all regions]