The posters and the trailers for this animated comedy adventure looked funny – two turkeys travelling back in time to change the course of history and stop turkey being the main menu choice during the American Thanksgiving holiday. But somewhere between the cooking up of the original idea and the final product, all the jokes were sucked out and this family movie comes out of the oven pale, underdone and pretty inedible.
One of the problems is the movie is made for an US audience that already knows the history of Thanksgiving and all the holiday’s traditions. An international audience may be perplexed from the start, as turkey Reggie (Wilson) is pardoned by the US President and set up with a comfy life watching TV soaps and ordering pizza instead of being destined for the dinner table like all his relatives. That changes, however, when activist bird Jake (Harrelson) crashes into Reggie’s life and says they can both change the course of history – and take turkey off the menu – by travelling back to the first Thanksgiving at Plymouth colony in 1621 using an experimental government time machine called S.T.E.V.E (voiced by Star Trek’s George Takei).
Unfortunately the few laughs (some of which will go flying over kids’ heads) there are come in the first few minutes and then this adventure turns into a tedious tale that rather uncomfortably seems to equate the plight of the turkeys with Native Americans. There are some villains, but no one scary enough to frighten children or add any tension to the proceedings, and the bizarre moments – of which there are a few – will be perplexing to kids and adults alike. Altogether, it’s an odd, hard to like cartoon that’s neither cute (aside from the fluffy turkey chicks, the rest of the birds are creepily buff) nor very enjoyable. A turkey indeed.
Is Free Birds suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
Very young children may be frightened when the turkeys are chased by dogs.
Towards the end, one turkey sacrifices himself to save others, which little viewers may find distressing.