Predictable Angry Birds follow-up lacks comic punch
Film review - The Angry Birds Movie 2 (U): 5.5/10
Directed by Thurop Van Orman and John Rice, computer-animated caper the Angry Birds Movie 2 feathers its nest with an achingly predictable journey of self-discovery and timely lessons about collaboration and acceptance across the cultural divide.
While the original film, released in 2016, felt like a glossy promotional tool for the puzzle-oriented games created by Finnish company Rovio Entertainment, the sequel has the freedom to invent its own stories and colourful supporting characters.
It's disappointing that the screenwriters don't seize this opportunity and rely on obvious visual gags (a flashback to a Flockbusters video store) to embellish a linear narrative that lacks dramatic tension or jeopardy, even when cute birds are being pelted with balls of molten lava.
The script seldom plays to the strengths of a starry cast of gifted comic performers including new arrivals Awkwafina, Tiffany Haddish and Leslie Jones, and they respond with muted vocal performances that barely take flight.
Throwaway interludes involving a trio of fluffy hatchlings on the hunt for three wayward eggs are cast in the same mould as the Minions in Despicable Me and Scrat in Ice Age, with an unexpectedly dark pay-off involving a slumbering 'boa constructor'.
Residents of Bird Island and Pig Island are locked in a war of attrition and pranks.
Feathered heroes use a giant slingshot to propel a bottle of hot sauce across the sea that separates the two communities and their porcine adversaries retaliate by dropping hundreds of angry crabs from a flotilla of airships.
Red (voiced by Jason Sudeikis), speedy livewire Chuck (Josh Gad) and self-combusting worrywart Bomb (Danny McBride) spearhead the birds' efforts to stay one cluck ahead of the pigs' rotund leader, Leonard (Bill Hader), and his second-in-command Courtney (Awkwafina).
These frenemies are shocked to discover the existence of a third colony, the frozen wasteland of Eagle Island, where embittered ruler Zeta (Jones) and her daughter Debbie (Haddish) are plotting to overthrow birds and pigs using a steam-powered superweapon.
'We need to put our differences aside and work together,' Leonard implores the birds.
Consequently, Red assembles a crack team for a daring mission to Eagle Island, which includes Chuck's inventor sister Silver (Rachel Bloom) and Mighty Eagle (Peter Dinklage), who has good reason to fear Zeta's wrath.
The Angry Birds Movie 2 is punctuated sparingly with broad slapstick like Bomb's hilarious attempt to sneak unnoticed past eagle guards but there are noticeably fewer giggles than the first film.
Visuals are gleefully saturated with retina-straining colour and co-directors Van Orman and Rice deliver outlandish set-pieces with gusto including a deranged breakdance battle to Harold Faltermeyer's electronic instrumental Axel F and the hunt for a security pass that culminates in a hysterically awkward encounter at a urinal.
For once, toilet humour is the height of comic sophistication.