Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson are turkeys that travel back in time to stop turkeys from being on the menu for Thanksgiving in Free Birds from Relativity Media. Is this a great new addition to the family holiday movie genre or is it just a lame duck animated flick?
Turkeys are dumb. They think farmers are their friends and that corn is the best food in the world. One outcast turkey named Reggie figured out that his species is the main course every year at Thanksgiving. He desperately tries to tell the rest of his flock, but because he is different, they won’t listen.
There is an annual tradition that one special turkey is pardoned by the President of the United States. This year Reggie is that lucky bird. After the presidential press conference is over, Reggie is taken by helicopter to Camp David where he enjoys his days eating pizza and watching telenovelas.
Everything seems great until he is abducted by a fellow turkey named Jake who tells him that the Great Turkey has sent him on a mission to find Reggie and travel back in time to change the course of history by getting their fellow turkeys off the menu for good. Can Reggie and Jake find the time machine hidden in a secret government bunker or will turkeys be doomed every November?
Lately if an animated family movie doesn’t have Pixar, Disney, or DreamWorks associated with it, then the majority of the time it’s a thrown together mess of a movie that was made just to sell toys. Free Birds by Relativity Media is one of those moves that comes out of no where with a simple plot that turns out to be pretty entertaining. I went into my screening with little expectations, but left having a good time. I laughed at the adult humor and my kid really enjoyed the characters.
Free Birds has a simple plot that you just have to go with. A pardoned Presidential turkey is kidnapped by a conspiracy theory crazed one. They then have to find a super secret time machine hidden in a bunker by Camp David. They go back in time three days before the first Thanksgiving to stop turkeys from being on the menu.
What I really liked about the movie was it’s abundance of adult humor. The movie was pretty self aware at how far fetched it was as it went overboard to tell its story. Another thing I liked was that it was a Thanksgiving movie. We have a huge selection of serious and humorous Christmas, Halloween, and Easter movies, but why not any for Thanksgiving? Other than I think a Charlie Brown special, I can’t recall another kid’s movie about Thanksgiving. With all it’s goofiness, what I really appreciated was the message it had for kids. Holidays are not about what you eat, but that you spend them with friends and family.
Owen Wilson, the voice of Car’s Lightning McQueen, is the voice of Reggie. The best way to describe the character is a fish out of water. He’s different, he knows it, but so does the rest of his flock. He’s figured out that turkeys are food and tries to warn everyone, but like he says, “Turkeys are dumb.” The characters sort of reminded me of Flik from A Bug’s Life. He was basically a nerdy turkey. His buddy in the movie is Jake voiced by Woody Harrelson. He’s a tall and strong turkey, who isn’t all there in the head. Jake reminded me of a cross between Harrelson’s Tallahassee character in Zombieland and Dory from Finding Nemo. So imagine a tough muscle head with short term memory problems. Both characters worked well in this buddy movie as their characters complimented each other with their polar opposite characteristics.
Rounding out the cast is the turkeys Reggie and Jake visit and a surprising voice of the time machine named S.T.E.V.E. (Space Time Exploration Vehicle Envoy). Amy Poehler is the voice of Jenny, she is the daughter of the indian turkey chief and the sister to the alpha male turkey named Ranger voiced by Jimmy Hayward who actually voices quite a few other characters in the movie. Jenny is a pretty and smart turkey but has one hang up. When she gets nervous she has a lazy eye that rolls all over the place like Cookie Monster’s. It was hard not to laugh. The biggest surprise was the voice of S.T.E.V.E. played by none other than Mr. Sulu himself, George Takei. He was perfect as the voice of the time machine’s computer. Instead of the machine just being an inanimate vehicle, Takei gave it personality and character.
What I could gripe about the movie was the second act and the commercials in the movie. I thought the movie started really strong, It was super funny and the President’s daughter who picked Reggie to be pardoned was absolutely hilarious. But as Reggie and Jake go back in time and interact with the Native American turkeys, it just slowed everything down. Reggie was too busy looking for romance with Jenny and Jake was too busy flexing authority with Ranger. My biggest pet peeve I have with movies is product placement. I understand sometimes you have no choice, but when you shove the product in the audience faces it just seems pretty dumb. The biggest example of this is that Reggie loves pizza. Initially Reggie orders from an nondescript pizza parlor, but later he specifically buys Chuck E. Cheese pizza. There were Chuck E. Cheese pizza boxes and logos all over the place. Hell my kid even asked if we could go to that rat’s pizza place after the movie.
Even with my minor complaints, I left the theater entertained. My kid liked it. My friend and her kids liked it. And even adults in the crowd said they had a good time. The movie looked gorgeous. You could see the textures of the birds feathers. I did attend a 3D screening and while the extra dimension added depth to the picture, I’m not really sure if it’s worth the extra money. What’s bad is that the opening movie studio logo had more 3D effects than the rest of the film. If you’re not a fan of 3D, then I say save your money. If you are looking to take the family to a funny and entertaining movie, then take a chance on Free Birds.
Free Birds was a bit of a surprise. My daughter and I really liked it. It was fun for kids and filled with adult humor for the grown ups. I am on the fence if it was worth seeing in 3D, so I’ll just say it’s up to you if you want to spend the extra cash, but you’re not going to miss out much on a 2D viewing. With no kid’s films released in the month of October, this is a fun movie for the whole family worth at least checking out at a 2D bargain matinee.
In Theaters: November 1, 2013
Runtime: 91 min
Rating: PG for Some Action/Peril, Rude Humor.
Director: Jimmy Hayward
Cast: Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Amy Poehler, George Takei, Colm Meaney, Keith David, Dan Fogler, Jimmy Hayward, Kaitlyn Maher, Carlos Alazraqui, Carlos Ponce, Danny Carey, Jeff Biancalana, Robert Beltran
Genre: Comedy, Adventure, Animated, Family
Distributor: Relativity Media, Entertainment One
Official Site: http://www.freebirdsmovie.com