Free Birds is the first animated feature from Reel FX. The film stars an outcast turkey named Reggie, and his mission is to travel back in time to 1621 to prevent turkeys from ever becoming the main Thanksgiving dish.
It is part action movie, part war movie and part find-your-place movie.
This film avoids the usual problem of milking the premise for too long, which often occurs in films like this. It uses the ridiculous premise to set up a fun and heart-warming, albeit formulaic, story.
There are quite a few problems with this film, though.
The most egregious issue is how harsh it is. Many jokes are taken a step too far, and many problems are introduced without adequate solutions.
That is not to say that animated films shouldn’t address deep, important issues for children, but they should be cautious and informative in their approach.
This movie begins to touch on major issues but leaves them behind when they turn too serious. The most common theme, as is usually fitting to animal movies, is death.
However, every time that death comes up naturally in the story, it cuts away with a cheap diversion.
There are few mediums better suited to addressing this mature issue with young children, and filmmakers shouldn’t shy away from having a message.
One of the fairly well addressed themes in this film is that actions have consequences. The main characters make mistakes and have to redeem themselves, which is a good platform for a parent to bring up the issue.
Directed by Jimmy Hayward, Free Birds features the voice talents of Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Amy Poehler and George Takei.
It’s easy to tell that the voice actors are having a great time recording, and their enthusiasm shines through in one of the few consistently good elements of the film.
Takei’s small part is a real gem; his sassy time machine makes one of the more bizarre elements of the film a lot more bearable.
Reel FX is well-known for its animated shorts, including portion work on other films, such as Everyone’s Hero. Their only previous feature is Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away, which result in a fairly odd repertoire.
Across their films, though, Reel FX has shown loving dedication to what should be (and often are) pretty terrible movies. That same dedication is present here, and behind every joke, both bad and good, is a group of people at the studio, laughing heartily.
Runtime is 90 minutes. There are worse movies to get dragged to around the holidays, although try to wait until after Thanksgiving, lest the smaller children of the family start trying to free the turkey on the table.