Turkey Talk: FREE BIRDS (Film Review)

Free Birds

It’s turkeys versus the pilgrims in this time-travel fantasy.

It isn’t Thanksgiving yet, but Hollywood is already serving up turkey.

With the holiday season fast approaching, what better way to celebrate it than watching a time-travel film that includes a group of turkeys, pilgrims and a wise-cracking time machine? If you’re feeling adventurous and want to see a film that goes off the beaten path, Free Birds might be something you’ll want to put on the Thanksgiving menu. A word or warning: if you have children and plan on eating turkey this Thanksgiving holiday, your children may have second thoughts on what they want to eat after seeing the movie.

In the animated comedy Free Birds, Reggie (Owen Wilson) lives a comfortable life after receiving the presidential turkey pardon, and no longer worries about being served as a main dish on Thanksgiving. But after he’s recruited by wild turkey Jake (Woody Harrelson) for a top-secret mission, the unlikely pair must travel back to the first Thanksgiving in 1621 to get turkeys off the holiday menu for good.

As you sit in the theater, keep in mind that for 90 minutes you’ll be surrounded by cartoon story telling. A time machine that takes Turkeys back to 1621 may sound quirky, but in the context of this high concept film the story’s elements make sense. Director Jimmy Hayward, who also directed Horton Hears A Who!, brings the same sensibility he brought to his previous film where he connects elements that may seem out of place in their own. The plot device that gets Reggie and Jake from the forest to the time machine uses the animated art form to stretch and mold the storyline.

The animation, although not as rich as the recent Monsters University or Despicable Me 2, does hold its own. In a specific instance, S.T.E.V.E. (the time machine) becomes translucent while flying through space and offers a spectacular view of Earth. If you’re watching the film in 3D this scene will definitely be visually enhanced. The use of computer generated graphics was maximized to create jaw-dropping visuals.

Cast (L to R): George Takei, Woody Harrelson, Amy Pohler, Owen Wilson and director Jimmy Hayward at the film’s premiere in Westwood, CA.

Beyond the animated environments, the physical comedy is quickly paced and does keep the film visually interesting. That being said, the film contains some animated violence that may be startling for the younger viewers, but overall the family-friendly movie will appeal to all ages.

The voice cast includes Woody Harrelson (Jake), Owen Wilson (Reggie), Amy Poehler (Jenny), Keith David (Chief Broadbeak), Dan Fogler (Governor Bradford), Colm Meaney (Myles Standish), and George Takei (S.T.E.V.E.).

The screen story was co-written by David I. Stern (Open Season 2 & 3) and John J. Strauss (The Santa Clause 2 & 3), with the screenplay penned by Hayward and Scott Mosier (Clerks the animated TV Series); the latter also served as a producer.

Free Birds will open in the U.S. November 1.

The film is rated PG for some action/peril and rude humor. Running time is 1 hour and 90 minutes.

You can follow David Derks on Twitter at @dderks

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