"Free Birds" Review: Craig's First Take

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Two turkeys from opposite sides of the tracks must put aside their differences and team up to travel back in time to change the course of history - and get turkey off the holiday menu for good.
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“Free Birds” is about as entertaining as a Peeta protest. Quite stunning actually, a big movie studio (ReelFX, doing their first feature here) has produced a film that attacks tradition while sinking to such bald-faced vegetarian manipulation, you would think they were trying to torment small children the next time they even look at a drumbstick. And to top it off the film is a dead zone for laughs. Well not really, a disclaimer read by George Takei (who also voices a time machine in the film) to begin is hilarious. Unfortunately the rest is all agenda.

Director Jimmy Hayward, who made a better message movie with “Horton Hears a Who” earlier in his career, ops for an awfully manic pace, the characters or the laughs never have any opportunity to sink in. What plot there is concerns a turkey named Reggie (Owen Wilson), who’s always been a bit different, being pardoned by the president (a Clinton imitation that isn’t the least bit funny) before hooking up with Jake (Woody Harrelson), a turkey on a mission to go back in time to the first Thanksgiving in order to get turkey off the menu and save all turkeys thereafter.

What follows is painful. The comedy about “dumb turkeys” and animated slapstick (that is actually more bizarre and irritating) hardly ever works and the plotting is actually quite shocking, especially when Reggie and Jake arrive in 1621 and the turkeys of this time are all wearing war paint and Indian garb, and are being hunted by a dark, scary figure in Standish (Colm Meaney). Yes, this movie compares the plight of the Indians with that of turkeys. It doesn’t get more offensive than that, but turkeys portrayed in a cute, melodramatic way, farms as concentration camps, and humans as either frightening or clueless make this a pretty simplistic message film.

It’s disappointing that Wilson and Harrelson are wasting their time in this, ditto for Amy Poehler, playing the daughter of the Chief turkey (an equally wasted Keith David) and a dull Reggie love interest. Based on the vegetarians I’ve met, I’ll assume they won’t think “Free Birds” goes too far but I’d be more surprised if they thought it was funny. Hayward, and co-writer Scott Mosier (who has worked with Kevin Smith on movies and weekly podcast), only get this thing to come to life during a few action sequences. Otherwise they’ve made a film that will vary in offensiveness depending on you but that bores and annoys with its supposed comedy.

On the Younking Scale- 4 out of 10