PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):
Reggie the Turkey has always been afraid of Thanksgiving because turkeys have always been on the menu, but his attempts to warn his farm-based flock constantly fall on deaf ears and has made him an outcast. When the other turkeys finally realize what is going on, they throw Reggie outside in an attempt to save themselves. In a surprise twist of fate, he winds up being named the “pardoned turkey” by the President of the United States and is subsequently taken to Camp David. Although initially hesitant, Reggie soon eases into a routine of doing nothing but enjoying pizza delivered to him by the “Pizza Dude” and watching Mexican telenovelas.
About three days before Thanksgiving, Reggie gets bag-kidnapped by Jake, the president and the only member of the Turkeys Liberation Front. Jake tells him that a “Great Turkey” told him to find Reggie and take him back to the first Thanksgiving with him to take turkeys off the menu once and for all. They then infiltrate the base where a time machine is located. Despite interference by federal officials and several attempts by Reggie to trick him back to the surface, Jake manages to commandeer an egg-shaped time machine with an A.I. software named S.T.E.V.E. and they time-travel back to the same day in 1621, three days before the first Thanksgiving. Once there, they are immediately attacked and separated by colonial hunters led by Myles Standish. Reggie and Jake are quickly rescued by native turkeys led by Chief Broadbeak and his two children, Ranger and Jenny, the latter of whom Reggie immediately falls for.
Broadbeak explains that the turkeys in the area have been forced underground since the settlers came and that they cannot risk fighting back without the settlers taking them. The next day, Broadbeak orders Jake and Ranger to spy on the settlers and Reggie and Jenny to spring all the hunting traps the humans set up. Despite initial hostility, Ranger and Jake find out that the settlers have already begun preparations for Thanksgiving as well as where they keep their weapons. Meanwhile, Jenny, who believes Reggie is lying about being from the future, is impressed with his accidental unorthodox way of springing the traps. However, they are soon intercepted by Standish and Reggie is forced to get her in orbit over the planet aboard S.T.E.V.E., validating everything he said in the process. Reggie convinces Jenny to go back to the future with him once everything blows over, but she refuses to leave the flock no matter how much she likes him. Jake then drags Reggie away and tells him he has a plan to attack the settlers. However, Reggie has gotten sick of all his unapproved stories and threatens to leave.
Desperate, Jake tells him that this trip was more about him making up for his failure to save turkey eggs while escaping a turkey-fattening facility when he was young, maintaining that the Great Turkey convinced him to go through with this. While still reluctant to believe what he said, Reggie still goes along with the plan. They manage to use gunpowder to destroy the weapons shack, but Jake inadvertently leaves a gunpowder trail back to the tree the turkeys are hiding under. Standish and his men flush the turkeys out from underground, capturing enough for the feast and killing Broadbeak in the ensuing panic. Jenny is sworn in as the new chief and orders the remaining turkeys to prepare an attack on the settlers.
Despite Jake’s attempts to get him to stay, a heartbroken Reggie heads back to the present. Once back at Camp David, Reggie is confronted by three future versions of himself. Through the awkward conversation, Reggie discovers from one of them that he is the Great Turkey, having used S.T.E.V.E. to throw his voice and appearance. Inspired, Reggie goes back in time to stop the attack, erasing Standish from history in the process. Through S.T.E.V.E. and the Pizza Dude, Reggie convinces the settlers and the arriving Indians that pizza is a more acceptable food than turkeys, taking them off the Thanksgiving menu entirely. In the end, Reggie decides to stay with Jenny while Jake takes S.T.E.V.E. in order to look for new adventures. However, Jake returns moments after leaving and implies to Reggie and Jenny that he needs help putting an end to the turducken.
You know, now that I think about it, there really aren’t many movies about turkeys and/or Thanksgiving, of note, except for that Charlie Brown special. Back in the day, it seemed liked everyone had one, but these days, not so much. I believe that is why Free Birds even exists, to fill the void that the younger generations don’t know exists.
What is this about?
After years of fruitless warning of his farmyard brethren of the coming Thanksgiving doom, Reggie the Turkey finds himself spared as the annual Pardoned Turkey. However, Reggie’s easy life is disrupted by Jake, a fanatic turkey who drags him along with the insane idea of going back in time to make sure turkeys are not part of the first Thanksgiving. Through foolhardiness and luck, the pair manage to take an experimental time machine to do just that. Now in 1621 at the Plymouth colony, Reggie and Jake find themselves in the middle of a turkey clan’s struggle for survival. In doing so, their preconceptions of the world and themselves are challenged forever in a conflict from which the world will never be the same.
What did I like?
Pardon me. Every year, one turkey is given the honor of being pardoned by the President of the United States. What this does is basically grant said turkey a stay of execution for a year, let’s not sugarcoat what it is. The creative force behind this flick was smart enough to take this concept and run with it. Not only do they take said and turkey and show him living the life inside the White House, but they take the time to show the audience that humans can’t tell one turkey from the other. Is it just me, or do those guards in the hazmat suits look like they came from the set of Monsters, Inc.
Someone actually had a thought! Take a minute and think of all the films that have been released in the past year or so. Aside from sequels and comic book films, how many were actually original? For me, I think there may have been one or two, but that’s it. The rest all fall into the unfortunate category of reboots/remakes. Ugh! This seemed like it was going to be just another kiddie flick, but in reality, it deserves some praise for having an inspired, original script, which is something we don’t run across very often. Whether you love or hate this film, one think that can be said it that it is fin.
Oh My! In the last year or so, George Takei has become a huge star, at least for now. In a nod to his past on Star Trek, it was rather funny to see/hear him as the voice of the time traveling space ship, S.T.E.V.E. Takei’s trademark humor are included well, as we see that the ship is a character on its own…arguably a better character than the birds!
What didn’t I like?
Owen. Once again, we have Owen Wilson voicing a rather pathetic character who somehow manages to develop a backbone, conveniently, at the right time and helps to save the day. Cliché plot point aside, Wilson’s voice grates my nerves almost like no other, except Jesse Eisenberg and Jay Baruchel. Personally, I have never and will never care for the less talented of the Wilson brothers, who seems to always be shoved down our throats, complete with close-up of his deformed nose. I’m surprised they didn’t give this turkey some sort of deformity. Then again, I guess being the scrawny one, as he is, was bad enough. Does Wilson do a good job voicing the character? Not really. He does ok reading the lines and all, but that’s what it feels like. There is little to no emotion put into his performance and if he was looking to create another animated character on par with Lightning McQueen, this isn’t it.
Love story. Two turkeys go back in time in an egg-shaped time machine to stop the First Thanksgiving so that turkeys everywhere can stop being killed every year. Sounds like a die-hard action movie for kids, right? Would you think they’d put a love story in there? In my mind, I figured we’d see the token love interest temporarily, as in like a scene here or there. Little did I know that they would drag that out, give her an entire backstory, and make her a central character. In a better film, this would not be a problem, but this all just seemed shoehorned in to fill up a couple of extra minutes.
Anti-Thanksgiving. The people who made this film must really have something against Thanksgiving. Not only do they try to take turkey away from the dinner tables (I’m not a turkey eater, myself), but they take the “heroes” of initial feast and turn them into the villain, especially Miles Standish. Some have called this an anti-Thanksgiving film. I cannot find a reason to argue with that moniker, as it does everything it can to kill the holiday, save for actually accomplishing the goal the two turkeys set out to do in the first place, which was stop the first Thanksgiving.
Watching Free Birds, I got a couple of chuckles from a joke here and there, such as one about “Angry Birds”, but the humor mostly fell flat with me, as I’m not in the demographic this was intended. However, I did like the story that was written for this film and believe that it could have been something special in more capable hands. The animation is pedestrian, but not horrible, and the character design seems to be uninspired, for lack of a better term. Do I recommend this? On a normal summer day, I would have to say no. However, when Thanksgiving rolls around and you’re looking for a holiday flick to watch with the kids, then sure. After all, that is more than likely the only reason this film was even made.
2 1/2 out of 5 stars