Friday, August 16, 2019


Happy Friday everybody!

Check out my "Friday Flicks" column, on Phoenix Magazine online, with reviews of Good Boys...

...and Bill Rebane's 1975 The Giant Spider Invasion...

...(playing in a "RiffTrax" version at various Harkins multiplexes on Tuesday August 20).

Also opening  this week...

The Angry Birds Movie 2: Red, from 2016's The Angry Birds Movie, isn't quite so angry these days. Still voiced by Jason Sudeikis, the cardinal-like red bird is hailed as a national hero on his island home, populated by flightless avians, for his services in the conflict with the neighboring island populated by green pigs. He enjoys basking in his glory so much that when the pigs send a message requesting a truce, he's terrified that peace will lessen his popularity.

The Angry Birds Movie 2 follows Red as he and his feathered friends team up with the pigs to fight a common menace, huge balls of ice launched from a third island, presided over by an autocratic eagle (voiced by Leslie Jones). Many other characters are woven into the complicated story, voiced by an impressive roster of currently hip comedic talent: among those held over from the first film are Josh Gad as the speedy Chuck, Danny McBride as the explosive Bomb, and Peter Dinklage as Mighty Eagle, who's haunted by some sort of dark secret. Bill Hader is back as Leonard, the leader of the pigs.

New this time is Rachel Bloom as the brainy bird Silver, a love interest for Red. The supporting cast ranges from Awkwafina and Sterling K. Brown to Pete Davidson and Beck Bennett to Eugenio Derbez to Dove Cameron to Tiffany Haddish.

Maybe because it involved a truce and an alliance, I liked Angry Birds 2 much better than I did the original. The first film, derived from a strange and popular 2009 video game that also spawned toys and t-shirts and TV cartoons, was amusing enough at times. But it was rooted in the idea of anger at, and mistrust of, foreigners. I certainly don't think it was consciously intended as reactionary propaganda, but xenophobic fantasy just didn't feel like what our society was in need of in 2016, much less now; we already have plenty of angry birdbrains, and at the moment they seem to be running the show.

Gratifyingly, Angry Birds 2 is about is about learning to work together as a team, including with those you've always regarded as your enemies. It's more generous-hearted, and better yet, it's truly funny, loaded with free-associational blackout gags linked to popular music, imaginative, intricate slapstick action sequences, and pure surreal silliness.

Animated movies for kids, even when they're well-intentioned and generally well-done, can get wearying at times for adults, especially when you see a lot of them, as a parent and/or a movie critic. But Angry Birds 2 made me laugh out loud, quite as lot. It was a pleasant surprise.

If you go, by the way, don't be late; the movie is preceded by an animated short called Hair Love, in which a young African-American father braves the daunting task of helping his daughter fix her hair on an important day. Written and directed by Matthew A. Cherry, it's a flawless five-minute wonder, and it left me in tears. I'll be surprised if it's not an Oscar nominee.

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