The Angry Birds Movie 2 (Photo: Columbia & Sony Animation)

(SUMMER MOVIE WRAP 2019: Best Film, Biggest Disappointment, Top Moneymakers, Worst Remake, and more! For a look at the highlights and low points of the cinema season, go here.)

THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE 2
** (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Thurop Van Orman
STARS Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad

The Angry Birds Movie arrived in 2016, and the realization that even social apps were now being turned into films made the prospect of Internet Meme: The Movie seem like an inevitability. (Instead, Hollywood foisted The Emoji Movie onto an unsuspecting world.) The film stormed its way to a $107 million gross, but, aside from your 8-year-old nephew, does anyone even remember the specifics of the story? And aside from your cousin’s 6-year-old daughter, was anyone even clamoring for a sequel?

Apparently not, considering that the early gross for The Angry Birds Movie 2 signals that it will make only about one third of what its predecessor earned. At least its makers can console themselves with a better critical response (on Rotten Tomatoes, 75% Fresh for the follow-up compared to 44% Rotten for the original), although such glowing praise has frankly left me baffled. The Angry Birds Movie 2 is arguably better than the first film, although I’d hate to live on the difference.

The previous picture followed the dictates of the game, as Red (voiced by Jason Sudeikis), Chuck (Josh Gad) and Bomb (Danny McBride) had to prevent Leonard (Bill Hader) and his fellow pigs from taking over their island of flightless fowl. The story came up with some amusing ways to tap into the game’s basic components, even if the birdbrained characters wore on the nerves in a way their apps counterparts obviously never did.

Freed from following the game template, this cluttered continuation finds the birds and the pigs teaming up to stop a gawky eagle named Zeta (Leslie Jones) from destroying their respective island homes by firing ice bombs at them. While most of the players believe they should work as a team to combat this threat, Red, still dealing with issues of insecurity and uncertainty (as in the first film), tries to position himself as the leader of the outfit and as the hero of the saga.

It’s not a particularly gripping narrative — I preferred the minor subplot involving three chicks trying to retrieve some wayward eggs — and watching Red continue to deal with his inadequacies plays more like a sad sop to adults and less like entertainment value for kids who will be more interested in colorful slapstick antics. Of course, many of the best animated efforts include material to placate the grown-ups, but watching, say, Judy Hopps fight Chinatown-level corruption in Zootopia or the Genie mimic Jack Nicholson in Aladdin is far more enjoyable than witnessing the incessant whining of a mediocre white male — or, in this case, a mediocre red one.

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