You'll probably read a lot of reviews that take the easy route and call this film a turkey – because it's about a bunch of turkeys! (Chortle at the lazy film critics.) Free Birds is not a bad film – in fact, for the most part, it's quite fun. But it is a bit of a puzzle.
The puzzle is Thanksgiving and its relevance to those of us in the rest of the world that exists outside the US of A. Yes, dear Americans, as much as we all love you to bits, there is a big, wide world beyond your golden shores. And as much as we love (and gobble up) your culture, and the sparkling entertainment that goes with it, the holiday of Thanksgiving holds zero importance for us. So why do you send us your films about it?
As a movie experience, though, Free Birds is kinda fun. It's a time travel tale about two turkeys who want to go back to the very first Thanksgiving and convince the people there not to dine on turkey but partake of pizza instead, thereby changing Thanksgiving forever and saving all future turkeys from the table. (A small plothole – have these birds never heard of Christmas?) Our time-travelling turkey twizzlers ... err, heroes ... are Reggie (Wilson) and Jake (Harrelson), who stumble across a secret US government time machine hidden beneath Camp David. The time machine itself is probably the best thing in the film – it's code-named S.T.E.V.E and is hilariously voiced by the wonderful Takei. Oh my!
There are puns and pop-cultrue references galore, but the humour is generally aimed at the younger folk. Adults taken along by their kids probably won't be bored, but all generations will probably find the plot a bit busy and convoluted. There are an awful lot of characters to try to keep track of, and as said before, the very-American historical references that abound will probably be lost on audiences in the rest of the world.
Free Birds is decently made as far as CGI animaion goes – it's the first feature-length project from Texas studio Reel FX – but it lacks the oomph, pizazz, charm and heart of something produced by Pixar, Dreamworks or Disney. And a it doesn't come close to being anywhere as wonderful as that great bird-themed Arrdman film, Chicken Run. Free Birds is far from a turkey, but you probably won't leave the cinema feeling stuffed.
EXTRAS ★★ Bonus material is minimal and unadventurous. There's the featurette Birds Flipping History (1:24); the featurette Animating Free Birds: The Main Course (4:33); the featurette Winging It: Animators In Action (4:29); the featurette Talking Turkey With Composer Dominic Lewis (6:21); and the short teaser trailer Shake A Tail Feather (0:21).• Free Birds is also available on DVD and VoD