Where’s a good slingshot to knock me out and erase my memory of seeing “The Angry Birds Movie 2”?
The first movie in this franchise, you may recall, brought the mobile-phone game to the screen, turning the avian projectiles into characters — though that’s a generous word for two-dimensional stereotypes with names.
The lead, the hot-tempered Red (voiced by Jason Sudeikis), was the only one of the inhabitants of Bird Island to think the green piggies visiting the island were up to no good. After the piggies kidnapped the birds’ eggs, Red led a team that included boomerang-shaped Chuck (voiced by Josh Gad) and volatile Bomb (voiced by Danny McBride) to slingshot to Piggy Island and save the day.
The sequel starts with Red as Bird Island’s resident hero, but a nervous one. Inside, he fears people will forget his past heroics and leave him as lonely as before. (Eric Carmen’s “All By Myself” plays in Red’s imaginings, the first of many obvious and supposedly humorous needle-drops.) That’s why Red is suspicious when the pig leader, Leonard (voiced by Bill Hader), approaches the birds with a request for a truce.
Leonard and his experts report that there is a previously unknown third island, Eagle Island, whose evil leader Zeta (voiced by Leslie Jones) is shooting balls of ice and plotting to shoot lava-filled ice balls at both islands. Red and Leonard agree to team up to stop Zeta, but each has trouble agreeing on who should command the team, which includes Chuck, Bomb and the not-so-heroic Mighty Eagle (voiced by Peter Dinklage).
Red also has issues with the team’s newest and smartest member, the engineering wizard Silver (voiced by Rachel Bloom), Chuck’s sister. Red and Silver instantly annoy each other — which even the youngest audience members can see is a precursor to friendship and maybe romance.
That synopsis takes longer to read than to play out, meaning first-time feature director Thurop Van Orman (creator of the beloved Cartoon Network series “The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack”) and his three screenwriters have to pad a lot. They fill the void with rude humor, improvised dialogue that’s not as funny as its creators think, and a supporting voice cast that includes Awkwafina, Tiffany Haddish, Maya Rudolph, Sterling K. Brown and Eugenio Derbez.
And when that’s not enough — and it isn’t — there’s a B-plot involving three hatchlings trying to rescue three eggs they accidentally endangered. These sections provide the movie’s few laughs, with sight gags that test the laws of cartoon physics much like the Scrat scenes in the better “Ice Age” movies.
The saddest part of “The Angry Birds Movie 2” is that Sony Pictures Animation has paired this terrible feature with a really good short film. “Hair Love,” written by “BlacKkKlansman” executive producer Matthew A. Cherry (who co-directed with former Pixar animator Everett Downing Jr. and “The Proud Family” creator Bruce W. Smith) from Cherry’s children’s book, shows an African American girl trying to do her hair just right by following her favorite YouTube hairstyling vlogger (voiced by Issa Rae). The girl’s attempts are funny; her reasons are touching.
“Hair Love” — made for $200,000, raised on Kickstarter — packs more heart, warmth, smarts and skill into six minutes than “The Angry Birds Movie 2” manages in 16 times that length. Hollywood needs to encourage Cherry and his crew to make more movies, long or short.
‘The Angry Birds Movie 2’
Opens Tuesday, August 13, in theaters everywhere. Rated PG for rude humor and action. Running time: 96 minutes.
Screens with “The Angry Birds Movie 2.” Rated G. Running time: 6 minutes.