November 2013 saw the UK release of Free Birds, the Thanksgiving-themed turkey movie from animation studio Reel FX. The box office numbers weren’t great – understandably for such an US-centric topic – but were audiences wrong to overlook it?
The whole movie revolves around the premise of two time travelling turkeys (voiced by Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson) heading back to 1621, three days before the first ever Thanksgiving, to get turkey off the menu for good. Ridiculous, you say . . . well, yeah it is.
And Reel FX’s second-tier animation studio status does little to elevate the central concept. Their animation is serviceable, but the visuals lack any background detail. There are far too many blank mud walls, and not enough to distract us from the bog-standard plotting.
However, there are things to like here. The three central cast members (Wilson, Harrelson and Amy Poehler) all do a good job and it’s a lot of fun hearing Sulu himself, George Takei, make a small cameo appearance (along with some other entertaining Star Trek homage).
The gags are far too hit and miss, though. Some had me laughing out loud, and others just flopped. The writers (Jimmy Hayward and Kevin Smith’s partner in crime, Scott Mosier) rely on the whole ‘turkeys are dumb’ gag far to often (Hey, look! Aint they just the stoopidest things!). It gets kind of grating, but may provide some laughs for the younger viewers.
If you’re bored on a Sunday afternoon, Free Birds will pass 90 minutes just fine. But it really offers little more than that. There are a few quality gags but a more capable creative team may well have been able to draw something slightly more sophisticated from the wacko concept.