Monday, November 11, 2013

Free Birds

Premiered November 1, 2013.

"We're going back in time to the first get turkeys off the menu!"
A turkey named Reggie  (Owen Wilson) lives on a poultry farm.  He discovers that the farmers are fattening turkeys up just to turn them into meals.  When Reggie informs the other turkeys about their fate, they cruelly oust him from the barn to fend for himself rather than listen.   Reggie's misfortune winds up being a windfall as he is chosen to receive the President's annual Thanksgiving  turkey pardon.

Reggie is chosen as the Pardon Turkey
Reggie is taken in as a pet by the President's daughter (Kaitlyn Maher) and and will live with her at Camp David.

Reggie enjoys cheese pizza and telenovelas
While enjoying the good life, watching Mexican soap operas and ordering lots of pizza, Reggie meets a wild turkey named Jake (Woody Harrelson) who (more or less) kidnaps him.   

Jake is fanatically devoted to a prophecy he received from "The Great Turkey"
Jake claims to be the president of the "Turkeys Liberation Front" and says that they must save turkeys from Thanksgiving.  In order to achieve this, they must (naturally) time travel back to the first Thanksgiving to prevent turkeys from ever becoming the main course of the holiday meal.  

Jake says he knows where they can steal a time machine from a military base conveniently located near Camp David.  (Said time machine is called S.T.E.V.E and is voiced by George Takei!) 

Reggie and Jake travel through time
They arrive in Plymouth Massachusetts in 1621, 3 days before the first Thanksgiving feast.  Reggie and Jake find themselves in the middle of a turkey hunt led by Miles Standish (Colm Meaney). 

Standish threatens Governor Bradford
They're saved by local wild turkeys, Jenny (Amy Poehler) and Ranger (Jimmy Hayward)  and taken to the wild turkeys' hideout. 

So our heroes find themselves embroiled (pun intended?)  in the turkey clan's struggle for survival against Standish who is determined to find their hiding place at any cost and the rest of the Pilgrims who are just plain HUNGRY.   

Can Reggie and Jake save future turkeys from their annual thanksgiving holocaust?  

Here is the official trailer for your perusal:

J.A. Morris says:

I'm not the intended demographic, but I thought Free Birds was okay.  Some reviewers have called it Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, but with turkeys" and that's an accurate description.  But the voice actors are top notch and Reggie is a likable protagonist.
Jenny & Reggie observe Earth from the time machine.
I generally enjoy the work of Owen Wilson, Amy Poehler and Woody Harrelson.  And Keith David brings his "voice of God" to the role of Chief Broadbeak.  George Takei is great as S.T.E.V.E., the voice of the time machine.  He even gets to drop his signature "Oh My!" catch phrase.  Colm Meaney makes a good villain as Miles Standish.

The "kids" love Reggie.
I don't want to spoil the plot, but there is a serious (for a kids movie) death scene that might upset younger viewers.  The subsequent turkey funeral scene was actually very moving, you might find yourself tearing up (like I did).  

The real, historical Miles Standish was noted for using excessive force at times, and that's on display here as well. If this blog was a scholarly journal article, I would suggest that turkeys are standing in for Indians who were victims of Standish's brutality...but it's not, so I won't.
Tukeys prepare to battle the Pilgrims.
But it feels longer than necessary.  There's an opening segment that shows how Reggie is a bit of a misfit, which feels like padding.  The movie could have just opened with his Thanksgiving pardon and the story would've worked just as well.  There are also some "fight" scenes between Ranger and Jake that don't seem to serve any purpose. 

Reggie arrives at Camp David
Like other recent animated features, Free Birds has pop culture references that aren't likely to age well.  We even hear the turkeys called "angry birds" at one point.  

If you're a big 3D fan like me, don't bother seeing the 3D version.  I didn't notice anything that was particularly enhaned by the 3D technology.  This was disappointing, since Free Birds was shot in "real" 3D, not just "retrofitted".  

With Christmas movies (and countless new tv specials) released every year, Thanksgiving films are comparatively rare.  So Free Birds is a nice addition to Holiday seasonal programming.  And I imagine it acting as a "video babysitter" during Thanksgiving Dinner preparations in the next few years.  It's a fun, harmless movie, but it's no classic. 

J.A. Morris' rating:

2 and a half pumpkin pies.

RigbyMel says:

I generally agree with what J.A. Morris has to say about this film.  It is an agreeably goofy, but somewhat forgettable holiday offering.   The voice talents are great and the computer animation is very good.   However, the story, while appealing in concept, is rather lackluster in the execution, which is a shame.    If one is going to do a movie featuring time traveling turkeys,  I feel one should make more hay out of the possibilities for paradox inherent.  (Did they think the concept would be too difficult for kids to understand?)

Free Birds is not a complete "turkey", but it is probably not something that will become a perennial favorite.  

RigbyMel's rating:

2 pumpkin pies

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