Free Birds (2013)

Free Birds (2013)

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It all looked so promising...
It all looked so promising…

Twitter Plot Summary: A couple of turkeys travel back in time to stop turkeys from being on the Thanksgiving menu.

Genre: Animation/Adventure/Comedy/Family

Director: Jimmy Hayward

Key Cast: Owen Wilson, Woody harrelson, Amy Poehler, George Takei, Colm Meaney, Keith David, Dan Fogler, Jimmy Hayward, Kaitlyn Maher, Carlos Ponce, Robert Beltran, Carlos Alazraqui

Five Point Summary:

1. George Takei: instant win.
2. The chem-suit guards are the best thing in this. Shame they’re only there for 10 mins.
3. Generic kids movie stuff…
4. An Angry Birds reference. Hmm.
5. Ohh myyyy!

You can usually tell when the holiday season is on its way – not only are we struck by a mass of seasonal adverts, a bevy of festive jumpers and flagrant exploitation of the Christmas season to make some money, but we also see a return of animated films to our screens. The area between summer and Christmas is a barren zone as far as films for kids are concerned, with the occasional exception during the Halloween period. For us in the UK we usually kick off with Christmas themed movies, but the US have a holiday before then, namely Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is a purely American tradition, so its unlikely that Free Birds is going to have much resonance with the UK audience, but that doesn’t mean we should be excluded from seeing it, of course. Unfortunately whilst the Thanksgiving setting doesn’t entirely exclude the international audience, the story itself is by the numbers. Jumping into a time machine created by the US government, big strong-arm turkey Jake kidnaps “pardoned turkey” Reggie (so called because the President pardons him from the annual turkey slaughter) and they head back to the very first thanksgiving in order to take turkey off the menu permanently. All well and good thus far, surprisingly. It ultimately degrades into Native American turkeys fighting off the evil, turkey-gobbling settlers. Did you see what I did there? Heh. Not funny at all, I know. Much like this film after 15 minutes.

Not enough of these guys. Besides George Takei, the best thing in the film.
Not enough of these guys. Besides George Takei, the best thing in the film.

Most disappointingly it starts strongly before quickly losing its way and, crucially, most of the humour. The opening 15 minutes are incredibly funny and perhaps expecting it to retain that level of humour for another hour was asking too much. Even so, it would have been nice for it to at least remain vaguely amusing, but once they head into the past that’s pretty much it as far as laughs are concerned. The trailer featured the laughing chem-suit guards quite prominently, and they are the best thing in the film. Shame they’re only seen in the present day. Same again for the funny gags in the trailer – there isn’t much more to see in the film itself, the trailer splurged on everything worthwhile about the film. Funny that…

The monotony is saved, albeit briefly, when George Takei does his thing. He does at least make it worth your while sticking with it until the end, but only just. The remaining voice cast are serviceable but there’s no sense of emotion or embodiment of the character for us to get to grips with. Everybody is a surface level caricature, with the possible exception of Jake’s troubled turkey. Attempts are made at giving him a back story but it lacks emotional heft. Furthermore, the human reaction to fighting turkeys makes no sense at all. Just to rub salt in the wound, some actual Native Americans turn up on the cusp of the climactic fight and barely bat an eyelid. Suspension of disbelief is one thing, but this whole sequence takes the biscuit. Go and watch Chicken Run instead, that’s a far better representation of animal anthropomorphism set in a realistic world.

Favourite scene: It’s basic stuff, but Jake saying “A Time Machine” three times.

Quote: “Goodbye is just Hello blowing in the wind until our paths intersect again.”

Silly Moment: Humans VS Turkeys. Completely straight-faced. Hmm.

Is there an Alan Rickman plummet?: Yes

Score: 2/5

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