The Turkey Throwdown Free Birds is hilariously entertaining, but it won't keep them off our Thanksgiving menu.
The Fall season is upon us, and with that comes what's supposed to be a higher class of film; these are billed as deep, psychological studies or historical dramas with serious looks by serious people. Thankfully, neither of these is contained in the animated comedy Free Birds, and we're better for it.
The turkey Reggie (voiced by Owen Wilson) is a shy but intelligent bird who doesn't understand why his fellow brethren succumb to the slaughter house with such ease. Reggie is an odd bird to be sure, rejected by his flock and forced to endure taunting by those who have no idea of their predestined fate. One day, the US President arrives to pardon a bird for the upcoming Thanksgiving, and his daughter demands the cute Reggie be spared. Soon, he's flying aboard Air Force One, enjoying the high life of pizza and cable television, including ridiculous a Spanish drama. One night, Reggie's kidnapped by the renegade turkey Jake (voiced by Woody Harrelson), who wants to get his people off the Thanksgiving menu. His solution: steal a top-secret time machine with an artificial intelligence named S.T.E.V.E. (voiced by George Takei) and go back in time to the first Thanksgiving. Soon, the birds arrive in 1620's America on the eve of Thanksgiving. There, they meet a peaceful flock led by Chief Broadbeak (voiced by Keith David) and his daughter Jenny (voiced by Amy Poehler); Reggie is immediately taken by Jenny, while the husky Jake meets his match in the similarly testosterone-heavy Ranger (voiced by Jimmy Hayward). Together, they must keep the Englishman Miles Standish (voiced by Colm Meaney) from feasting on the flock and ushering in the holiday, all while protecting the rest of the timeline.
Voice Actor/Writer/Director Hayward brings a welcomed silliness to the screen, complete with adult-humored innuendos and childish slapstick physical comedy; but, there's also a somewhat serious Act 3, as Reggie and company face a seemingly insurmountable defeat at the hands of the evil Standish. Our voice actors do a fine job of giving their chactacters the depth necessary to pull of an animated comedy, something which Turbo and other lesser 2013 submissions failed to achieve. Wilson's a veteran of animated films, but it's hard to keep his trademark nasaly Cars voice from reminding us of Lightning McQueen. Harrelson's over-the-top performance is also quite enjoyable as the super Turkey who's chasing his destiny but has no clue about his ridiculousness; Proehler's straight-man routine is also her trademark in live action, and here she also adds a nice layer of seriousness in the final act. We felt the 3D didn't heighten the experience whatsoever, reminding us that sometimes even animated films don't get it quite right. But, for a film that's stuck in the middle of the Oscar season, it's an enjoyable diversion that all families should take.
Free Birds could be the kind of film that enters our holiday movie consciousness the way that A Christmas Story did 30 years ago. No Christmas is complete without watching Ralphie and his Red Rider BB Gun, and the same could happen with Free Birds. It's fun and wildly entertaining, with both parents and children finding a reason to chuckle at Reggie's expense. We don't think the 3D is worth the cost, but can strongly recommend it in any other mode. Add this to your yearly movie viewing list, and we promise a swift appetizer of laughs before the main course is served with potatoes and all the fixings. Free Birds is rated PG for...absolutely no reason and has a runtime of 91 minutes.
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