Reggie (Owen Wilson) has never been one to fit in with the crowd. Too smart for his own good, he’s a social outcast. He’s also a turkey. Standing out from the crowd isn’t all bad, though, as it leads him to become the official turkey to be pardoned by the President. Soon he’s living it up at Camp David, unaware that he is about to become one of the most important turkeys in history.
While engaging in the very normal turkey behavior of gulping down pizza and taking in telenovellas while in the President’s bath robe, Reggie’s perfect new life is interrupted when he is kidnapped by Jake (Woody Harrelson) – a jocky bird who is head of the Turkeys Liberation Front. Jake informs Reggie of his destiny, handed by down by the Great Turkey who appeared in the sky one night. The two are to hijack the secret time machine the president is testing, travel back to the first thanksgiving, and ensure that turkeys to not become the traditional main course of the holiday meal.
Also featuring Amy Poeler as a primitive turkey love interest and George Takei as the voice of S.T.E.V.E, the time machine with the personality of a Douglas Adams novel, this movie is as off the wall as you think it is. Thankfully, this movie takes the ridiculous premise and just runs with it. I mean, what else is it supposed to do – overthink an animated movie about time traveling turkeys?
Pop culture references abound, though not at the level as something like Shrek, and there are enough semi-intelligent gags to keep most adults chuckling. The president is something of a parody of Clinton, various classic time travel tales are alluded to, and the perpetually sleepy first daughter is, of course, adorable.
We’ve had some truly great animated films in recent years, such as How to Train Your Dragon, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and Despicable Me as non-Pixar studios have begun to step up their game. Free Birds is not one of them. The plot goes more or less exactly where you think it will go and includes high brow jokes about glutes. The cute little girl and bumbling yellow henchmen are lifted from Despicable Me and don’t quite live up to their inspiration with very little screen time. The historical events and characters do not even remotely try to be accurate – though that is acknowledged sarcastically with a disclaimer in the beginning. You could say that the events are shown in caricature as we see them through the eyes of the birds, but that’s probably looking too deep. And, as with most movies involving time travel, there are plot holes and inconsistencies.
The animation is pretty standard. It won’t blow your mind, but it won’t make you want to gouge your eyes out either. Same goes for the 3D effects.
Despite all the flaws, I still found myself amused the whole time, and the kids in the audience appeared to be enjoying themselves as well, so that’s a good sign. It’s just strange enough to work, as long as you don’t think too hard.
Mrs. Hamster says:
“It was stupid. The time travel didn’t make any sense, and all the characters were pretty annoying.”
My rating: Three out of five hats
Free Birds quantum leaps into 3,736 theaters, in 2D and 3D, November 1