‘The Angry Birds Movie 2’ Flies Into New Territory With Bigger Laughs 

Summertime is the ideal season to venture out into your local multiplex to witness a saga of candy-colored birds, some with arched eyebrows, do battle with green-toned pig adversaries living on a neighboring island. If this is not your idea of fun, then either you’re too much of an adult or “The Angry Birds Movie 2” is simply not your cup of tea. For the adventurous, or if you’re under the age of 10, this is a lively, innocent good time. Kudos to the filmmakers for finding a way to transform poop jokes, flying lava ice balls and snoring snakes into a surprising metaphor about loneliness and the anger of spurned hearts. That is not an ironic observation.

Picking up where the last movie ended, the story resumes in sunny Bird Island, where grumpy Red (Jason Sudeikis) is basking in the fame brought on by him saving the place from neighboring Piggy Island. However a prank war continues between both territories, with slingshot gobs met with reprisals. But all the birds, big and small, trust in Red whose key companions remain Bomb (Danny McBride) and the slightly insane Chuck (Josh Gad). Then, just as piggy king Leonard (Bill Hader) prepares another assault, a giant ice ball crashes near the shore. It’s a vessel commandeered by mad eagle Zeta (Leslie Jones), former resident of Eagle Island who is tired of living with nothing but ice. She wants sunshine and palm trees, so her plan is to simply obliterate the current Piggy and Bird islands and build her own, private utopia. An alarmed Leonard calls for a truce, warning a skeptical Red of the new menace. The two agree to unite and team up with the cowardly Mighty Eagle (Peter Dinklage), who knows more than he can tell about Zeta’s intentions. Also joining the crew is Silver (Rachel Bloom), Chuck’s brilliant engineer of a sister who already knows Red, from a bird speed dating event.

There’s little need to go too in-depth when analyzing the plot of “The Angry Birds Movie 2.” In a year where family entertainment has usually meant apocalyptic superhero extravaganzas about life and death, horror movies where teenagers chew on dead toes and a remake of “The Lion King,” there’s something refreshing in a movie that cheerfully aims specifically for the age group that’s barely learning how to read. Like last year’s “Teen Titans Go! To the Movies” this is animation without pretension, existing to make kids cackle while getting a decent message or two. Director Thurop Van Orman is a seasoned expert in this sort of exuberance, having written episodes for shows like “The Powerpuff Girls” and “Adventure Time.” He splashes the movie with countless references older film aficionados will both chortle at and appreciate. Red and Silver lower themselves into Zeta’s ship via ropes in an obvious homage to Brian De Palma’s “Mission: Impossible,” other shots wink at Wes Anderson’s “The Life Aquatic” and even “The Great Escape” if you can believe it. Orman indulges in some goofy elegance when our heroes go underwater in a massive, piggy-designed submarine and croon from Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly.” 

Like the first “Angry Birds” movie, this one surprises in how it manages to continue culling a real story out of characters which began as a mobile app game.  The sequel is all slapstick, with eagles in fatigues break dancing, piggies grabbing their posterior while rushing to the bathroom and the leads hilariously infiltrating Zeta’s lair in a giant costume. But the best children’s goof-offs have a bit more meaning. The theme this time is loneliness and accepting the other. The Piggy and Bird islands have to put their differences aside when facing a common threat, while Red’s obsession with newfound fame goes back to his feelings of being alone and an outsider. Surprising psychological depth can be found in flashbacks scored to Eric Carmen’s “All By Myself” where Red throughout the years, from infancy to adulthood, has no friends or attention. When he’s forced into a speed dating event and meets Silver she pin points him as a guy who can’t discuss his emotions. Sometimes a simple cartoon deals better with issues “serious” dramas turn into narrative messes. Zeta’s whole scheme turns out to be a grand expression of a spurned lover’s rage. When we find out the source of her thirst for revenge it makes more sense than any melodrama featuring humans.

As a bonus we get an extra little movie within the movie as we follow a group of hatchlings voiced by Zoe, Vivi and Sam-Sam who have lost a trio of unhatched eggs and desperately try to get them back, even by going into space. “Angry Birds Movie 2” is littered with fun side characters like these, including Sterling K. Brown as Garry, a coffee-sipping piggy who designs useless gadgets and Awkwafina as Courtney, Leonard’s distracted assistant. 

“The Angry Birds Movie 2” is recommended to best be seen with a very, very young companion. It won’t be a one-sided experience because it has enough sly humor, hidden satire and subtext to keep an adult viewer grinning all the way to the end.

The Angry Birds Movie 2” opens Aug. 14 in theaters nationwide.