Few expected "The Angry Birds" franchise to spawn a sequel, and once it was announced, many expected it to bomb. Does anyone even have an "Angry Birds" game on their phone anymore? Yet "The Angry Birds Movie 2" shows the filmmaking team and voice cast didn't let the hate ruffle their feathers.
Feathered with clever gags, snappy one-liners and top-flight animation, the movie obliterates the serviceable but unspectacular 2016 film with the force of a bird flung at a crumbly structure by slingshot. A riotous experience that connects with viewers of all ages, this one can flock with the likes of Pixar and DreamWorks.
The voice cast from the first one returns. Jason Sudeikis is Red, the self-conscious hero accused of having "resting bird face." Danny McBride is the combustible Bomb, Chuck (Josh Gad) is the flighty freelancer and Peter Dinklage is the blustering Ethan the Mighty Eagle. Leslie Jones, Nikki Minaj, Maya Rudolph and Awkwafina also rake in the laughs in supporting parts.
This time around, eternal adversaries birds and pigs forge an alliance to contend with the mysterious eagle squad that has been sniping ice bombs at both groups from afar. Yeah, plot isn't quite the movie's strong point. But don't be surprised if you're laughing too loudly and frequently to care.
Director Thurop Van Orman makes a staggering directorial debut, orchestrating his team to make inventive twists on standard tropes. Tiny birds dress in an eagle suit to infiltrate a base, leading to a pop-lock dance-off and a series of awkward moments at a urinal. Red engages in slow-mo flirtation in mid-flight. And Eagle reminisces about his near-miss romance with a goofy montage that mocks 90s culture.
The gags unfold in a series of chuckles, punctuated by belly laughs that often string together with relentless momentum. It's not often you see animated films get better with sequels -- look at the Lego Movie franchise for an example of diminishing returns -- but "The Angry Birds Movie 2" takes the opposite trajectory.
Although the "Angry Birds" video games may be played out, the movie iteration seems to just be getting started.Despite the "angry" branding of the franchise, there's only joy and thrills here.
RATING: 3 stars out of 4.