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Free Birds Review: More Grating Than a 9:06 Classic Rock Song

By Agent Bedhead | Film | November 1, 2013 |

By Agent Bedhead | Film | November 1, 2013 |

We’re only just coming down from the Halloween sugar rush, and here comes a movie about turkeys. Time-traveling turkeys, to be specific. Time-traveling turkeys who hate Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving. It’s my very favorite holiday, and I don’t even eat turkey. I’m not a vegetarian because of ethical reasons either. This movie, however, might turn your kids into meat-eschewing weirdoes, too. Oh who am I kidding? This is one of the most mindless children’s flicks of the year. Your kids might not eat meat for a few days, but soon they’ll forget about Free Birds, and everything will go back to normal.

No harm, no … fowl.

Except that this movie only comes in 3-D, which is a load of bird shit.

Free Birds doesn’t really need or deserve a review, but here we go. The story is a bit of revisionist history revolving around a couple of turkeys, Reggie and Jake (voiced by Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson), who travel back in time to try and stop their brethren from becoming Thanksgiving dinner for all of eternity. We meet Reggie just as he is headed to slaughter and is pardoned by the President, who sends him to Camp David for a life full of pizza delivery happiness. Serenity doesn’t last too long. Jake (mysteriously motivated by The Great Turkey — don’t ask) shows up and convinces Reggie to leave his luxurious quarters and join the cause of retroactively saving their species. Together, they land in 1621 and start a war with the Plymouth County settlers.

Jake harbors the magnificently misguided idea that the settlers will cheerfully become vegetarians upon his request. I think you can guess what happens from there. Along the way, Reggie falls in love with a winsome girl turkey named Jenny (Amy Poehler) and must save her from being carved up too. Gotta have a love story in there somewhere, right? That’s so important when it comes to selling Free Bird action figures just in time for Christmas.

Of course the movie carries a political message, and it’s not merely the animal rights standpoint at work. The subtext here is that the turkeys — despite their own righteous struggle against the settlers — pretty much substitute for Native Americans. They wear the same garb and face paint and operate within tribes. There are also actual Native American characters in the movie, but the turkeys take over the status of oppressed natives marked for genocide. The Native Americans are only there for the ride. I don’t know how Native Americans will feel about that, but it caused much squirming on my behalf. The analogy isn’t pretty.

While the movie itself is rather joyless and slightly offensive, Jake and Reggie by themselves are mildly entertaining. Slacker-voiced Owen fares well as scrawny Jake while the more vocally imposing Harrelson fills in the buff Reggie quite fittingly. I’d rather see these guys in a surfer movie together (and that’s saying something) than hear their voices a quarter-assed kiddie flick, but their presence here sure as hell beats another repeat of Will Arnett’s voice coming out of a bird’s mouth.

As far as family fare goes, this movie is mostly innocuous and will serve as a placeholder for delighted kiddies since there’s nothing else in theaters for them right now. The animals characters are likable, and the humans are idiots. The animation is flat even with the 3-D, and butt jokes abound. Free Birds is more enjoyable than watching Jennifer Lopez drool, “Gobble gobble” in Gigli, and that’s the nicest thing I can possibly say about this movie.

Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at Celebitchy.

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