The Angry Birds Movie

Director: Clay Kaytis & Fergal Reilly (2016)

After a history of plundering plays, books, games and toys for inspiration, Hollywood has gone the whole hog and made a film based on a smartphone app.

And though The Lego Movie (2014) is a great example of how unpromising material can inspire awesome cinema, this animated effort featuring birds fighting pigs is a bird-brained bore.

It’s bright, colourful, busy and noisy but far less fun than the game ever was.

Scenes eke out their jokes with violent slapstick for the little ones and sneering sarcasm for the teens. Plus there’s snot, wee, a multitude of wriggling bums and a bizarre singing cowboy sequence.

Jason Sudeikis voices the charmless Red, a lonely bird who gets angry when his feathers are ruffled.

He lives in a colony of cute flightless birds on a tropical island.

After a disastrous attempt at delivering a birthday cake, Red is sent to anger management class.

Because kids always find therapy jokes funny.

One day a steampunk pirate ship arrives with a crew of green pigs offering the trotter of friendship.

Red is given the bird by his compatriots when he questions the pigs motives.

He is proved right when the pigs kidnap the islander’s precious unhatched eggs. The swines.

So Red must come up with a plan and save the eggs’ bacon, without making a pigs ear of it and before their goose is cooked.

The soft boiled script relies heavily on crashing action and a scrambled mix of rap, rock and disco to capture the pointless freneticism of playing the game, but the tone is aggressive point scoring rather than giddy silliness.

And it all feels underdeveloped, presumably a consequence of trying to rush the movie into cinemas before everyone moves onto the next must-have gaming app. Oh dear.

Josh Gad and Danny McBride voice Chuck and Bomb. The former has super speed and the latter explodes.

Maya Rudolph irritates as Matilda the hippy psychologist and Sean Penn growls as a menacing over sized bird involved in a weird romantic subplot.

These pigging awful birds can flock off.

Frozen

Director: Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee (2013)

Wrapped up in sisterly love, this snow-filled Disney animated adventure is exciting, funny and even moving – but sadly never in sufficient qualities to justify it’s being nearly two hours long.

Apparently ‘inspired’ Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, it too often evades the dark icy heart of the fairytale.

Unapproachable Elsa (Idina Menzel) is the queen with the power to create snow and ice. She is a misunderstood and feared character who falls out with her sweet and ditzy sister Anna (Kristen Bell).

After Elsa accidentally uses her power, a summer instantly turns to permanent winter. She struggles to control her own magic so she is accused of being an evil sorceress and driven away into the mountains.

It is left to Anna to trek into the wilds, reconcile Elsa with her subjects and subdue the weather.

The animation is brilliant and the ice palace building sequence will send shivers down your spine. Lighthearted comic buffoonery balances the action which mostly involve being chased downhill by ice monsters and hungry wolves.

Along the way they make friends with comedy sidekicks including a mountain man called Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his reindeer named Sven and Olaf (Josh Gad) a snowman. He’s the the most fun character on show but also the most inconsequential.

The annoying dialogue is, like, totally California teenspeak, except for Sven the reindeer, who is mute but a far from dumb animal.

The script has problems, not least the lack of a readily identifiable, hissable villain. Yes there’s a giant snow troll but the drama rests on Elsa changing her mind. A nicely dark opening chapter is followed by a long and middling middle section.

Plus Frozen has two feisty female characters but doesn’t make the most of them. We see too little of the more interesting Elsa and spend too much time with Anna contemplating her romantic interests.

 Elsa belts out the excellent song ‘Let It Go’ but two weak and unnecessary songs (yes I’m talking to you Olaf the snowman and you, tiny trolls) slow the pace and lengthen the running time.

Everything heats up for the finale and delivers the film’s heartwarming message that love is more powerful than fear. Awww.

Elements of Frozen suggests someone at Disney saw the record-breaking worldwide box office returns of the theatrical production of Wicked and decided they wanted a piece of the action.

Based on Gregory Maguire‘s novel  Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West in turn based on The Wizard of Oz by Frank L Baum. The success of Wicked the show was due to tapping into the under-exploited market serving young teenage girls. Frozen methodically sets out to exploit the same rich profit seam.

Her undoubted talent notwithstanding, it’s no coincidence Idina Menzel played the role of powerful but misunderstood witch Elpheba in Wicked before playing the powerful but misunderstood witch Elsa in Frozen. Nor is it a surprise Frozen’s signature tune Let It Go could easily be slipped into the Wicked songbook. In fact more than one song could be – as the Honest Trailer recognises.

Since this review was first penned Frozen has become a global phenomenon. A sequel is on the way and of course there’s the short film Frozen Fever being shown in cinemas before Disney’s Cinderella. Which I enjoyed more.

The Wedding Ringer

Director: Jeremy Garelick (2015)

Failing to sound even the lightest peal of laughter, this sentimental gross-out bromance is a comedy title in need of a movie.

Comic turned actor Kevin Hart is a massive star in the US and the script encourages him to ad lib incessantly – but his sense of humour is lost in translation somewhere over the Atlantic.

Wealthy, fat and friendless, Doug (Josh Gad) can’t bring himself to admit to his bridezilla fiancee Gretchen he has no best man or groomsmen to attend their wedding.

Gretchen is played by Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting and as Penny in TV’s The Big Bang Theory she is charming and funny. But not here.

In desperation Doug turns to the wedding ringer Jimmy Callahan (Hart). He’s a professional best man for hire who operates out of an amusement park basement.

Question of the validity or morality of a service guaranteeing a marriage will begin with an expensive lie are sacrificed on the altar of the bride’s happiness and the success of the big day.

For a the $50,000 fee Jimmy hires a deranged bunch on unemployables to be Doug’s seven groomsmen. In only two weeks he has to train them up to be respectable citizens, each with an extensive invented personal background.

Jimmy himself pretends to be Bic Mitchum, an old university buddy who has joined both the military and the priesthood.

Like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, Jimmy insists on no emotional attachment with his clients – but slowly he and Doug start to bond.

There’s drugs, sex workers, a bachelor party, a dog with lockjaw, a bloke with three testicles, a violent game of American football and a granny is set on fire. Doug falls through his glass-topped table for no reason.

Olivia Thirlby appears as Gretchen’s cynical sister Allison. She’s there to confirm Jimmy’s heterosexual status but her talent deserves far better than this and so do we. However Doug, Gretchen and Jimmy all deserve each other.

☆☆☆☆