Taking The Pee Out Of a PG rating. Why “The Angry Birds Movie” Made Me Angry.
I have never ever played “Angry Birds,” and I wouldn’t know the difference between Red, Chuck and Bomb if they were pecking on my right leg. But I continue to recognize the obvious and increasing popularity of video games. My younger children, ages 8 and 10 have not so quietly “stolen” my phone on several occasions and while I have never downloaded a single game; there are at least half a dozen loaded on to my phone now. I assume “minecraft” is not about the coal business, and that “Clash Of Clans” is not about feuds between the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s.
So when I was invited to a screening of “The Angry Birds Movie,” I had little interest for myself; but I figured my kids would enjoy it. As an entertainment reporter, I try to see most new fare and I almost always get to go to the movies for free.
“The Angry Birds Movie” was no exception; four free tickets, as my kids brought along a 9 year old female friend. But while my wallet stayed in my pocket the entire time; I felt there was a really significant cost; as I subjected all three kids to a particularly tasteless and lengthy “joke” from the movie that has left a bad taste in my mouth ever since.
This phrase “the coarsening of our culture” has been bandied about for the last several years; and like all parents I try as best I can to shield to some degree my kids from things that I think are inappropriate. I am a pretty laissez faire parent. Just like his dad, my son probably watches a little too much TV. I did the same thing when I was his age; and thought I turned out okay.
The whole obsession with playing games on my smartphone is a new challenge for me. I have two older daughters; 20 and 15. My eldest barely uses her phone at all; and my 15 year old is only interested in “posting” non-stop on snapchat and instagram. Navigating the media world for my older daughters somehow seemed easier than it is now. I don’t think my judgment is becoming more stringent; I just think there are more choices for kids now; and as I discovered with “The Angry Birds Movie” some choices can be really bad ones.
As I write this, there seems to be some sort of raging debate about the status of use of public restrooms, including restrooms in schools. My guess is that there is no debate on what should happen when an individual is in a restroom stall, or standing in front of a urinal. That specific activity of emptying ones bowels or bladder; should be strictly private. Right? Is there anyone who disagrees with that?
Several years into our marriage, I was standing in front of the toilet in our master bathroom and had neglected to close the door to the toilet. As my wife walked in, she quickly walked out and said, “If you think we know each other well enough for you not to close the door to the john you’re mistaken, we don’t.” Her point was well taken.
So here I am at “The Angry Birds Movie” and about a third of the way into the movie; the three main characters have to go on a bit of a quest; [a quest or a journey, or finding your way back home, seems to be a mandatory plot line in virtually every animated kids movie]. The three birds need help and are heading to a mountaintop to find “Mighty Eagle,” the legendary hero of the bird community. In the foothills of the mountain is the “Lake Of Wisdom.” The audience discovers that Mighty Eagle is no longer as mighty as he once was. In fact, he is a bit of a burnout.
So as the characters and the audience both watch Mighty Eagle leave his cave on top of this mountain, he walks to the edge of the mountaintop and relieves himself at length into the lake.
The audience is treated to a steady and nearly endless stream of animated urine for a protracted period of time. There is a visible yellow tinted stream that fills the screen for quite a while, for an uncomfortable amount of time. Of course there is also the requisite sound effects to go with the stream. I am not an urologist but I sure felt like one. And worse, I felt like a really bad and really irresponsible parent. This “joke” is so lengthy I wonder if there is some desire to make the audience squirm. The entire endless sequence leads to a punch line you may have already figured out by now; one of the characters opines; “This isn’t the lake of wisdom, it’s the lake of whiz.” I have been in enough hack sitcom writers’ rooms to recognize a joke that is written backwards.
This whole pee-fest was much more than 10 seconds and probably less than a minute; but it really soured the entire movie for me. After the film was over — and all three of the kids I brought really liked the film. They thought it was fast and funny and the characters were true to the video game. But I asked them about the Mighty Eagle taking a lengthy leak.
“I thought that was embarrassing,” said my 10-year-old daughter. “I thought it was yucky,” said her 9-year-old friend.
I think the increasing reliance on scatological humor is both embarrassing and yucky. What’s more I don’t want to be in the position of putting that kind of material in front of my children. “The Angry Bird Movie” carried a PG rating and a warning about “rude humor.” But this was more than rude, and frankly, I am still angry about it.