Free Birds starts with a disclaimer, and I’m not going to spoil it for you by reciting the disclaimer, but it really boils down to a few mind-opening thoughts:
# 1 – It’s an animated film about turkeys that talk and behave like humans
# 2 – These turkeys go back in time to try to keep their brethren from being the feast at the first Thanksgiving
# 3 – Don’t expect this to be historically accurate, and what historian is going to call “fowl” on it anyway?
# 4 – Nobody’s trying to tell you to eat something different at Thanksgiving
# 5 – Kick back, have a few laughs, and enjoy a time travel story together with people you care about
If you keep these things in mind when you watch this movie, then you won’t be disappointed, and neither were we.
At the beginning of the film, we meet Reggie (voiced by Owen Wilson), who is unlike the other turkeys on the farm because he doesn’t like corn nearly as much as the other turkeys, and he uses his brain a lot more. He tries to convince the other turkeys that the farmers are just making them fatter in order to eat them. The other turkeys don’t believe him, but just when Reggie thinks he’s going to be able to say, “I told you so!”, he gets picked up by the President’s daughter to be the one lucky turkey that gets pardoned by the President, making him untouchable. He takes a plane ride to Camp David, where he lives in the lap of luxury, chowing down on Pizza, and enjoying On Demand TV programs like “El Solo Lobo”, because he can relate to the character in the story.
As you can guess, this pizza slice of heaven doesn’t last very long because Reggie gets abducted by Jake (voiced by Woody Harrelson), the commander of the Turkey Freedom Front, who’s only member is Jake. Jake’s mission is to take Reggie on a time machine, built by the government, back to the very first Thanksgiving feast between the Pilgrims and Indians in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621. Their objective is to arrive before the feast and make sure that turkeys are not part of the menu. Reggie, of course, does not want any part of this, and doesn’t even believe half of what he is hearing. But, Jake is relentless and refuses to deviate from the mission.
Hilarity ensues in the quest for S.T.E.V.E., which stands for Space Time Exploration Vehicle Envoy (superbly voiced by George Takei), hidden in a bunker near Camp David. And after making the risky trip back in time, they find themselves in Plymouth in 1621. It’s there that they meet Jenny (voiced by Amy Poehler), her father, Chief Broadbeak (brilliantly voiced by Keith David), Ranger (voiced by Jimmy Hayward) and the other turkeys in the industrious little underground town they had made for themselves.
We won’t give away major plot points from here on out, but you can bet there are major differences between the turkeys of the past and present, and how they develop their newly-formed relationships plays into the outcomes, and makes for a very interesting story.
The performances of all the voice actors are first class in Free Birds, but we have to say that George Takei and Keith David stood out from the rest. They both had full command of their characters in a very natural way that didn’t make us once think that George wasn’t a helpful time machine or that Keith wasn’t the leader of his community of turkeys.
A lot of the humor you will see in this film is physical. Not to say there aren’t clever one-liners, but it takes us back to slapstick buddy comedies, where you’ll find yourself laughing when a character falls and hits something or two characters try to intimidate each other. The humor, though, plays second fiddle to the story of survival that plays out in the second act, and is well-crafted by Director/Writer Jimmy Hayward.
We saw this film in 3D, and even though there were some parts of the film that were enhanced by the multi-dimensional landscapes, for the most part, 3D goes unnoticed. So, whether you see it in 3D or Digital format, the experience should be very similar.
We recommend that audiences go out and see this with their families. We also have a recommendation for a sequel: you can call it Free Birds 2: Adventures with S.T.E.V.E. We left the theater wanting more S.T.E.V.E., so why not have some more time-travel adventures with our favorite time machine?
Free Birds is in theaters now, so take the whole flock (we’re wild) out for a good time, and don’t forget to give thanks for the blessings of family, friends and talking turkeys.