Published Oct 31, 2013This well-meaning but short-sighted piece of kid-friendly vegetarian propaganda is funnier than material this slight has any right to be. With Jonah Hex director Jimmy Hayward in the driver's seat, it's safe to say that the flourishes of randomness that keep the film on life support come courtesy of co-writer Scott Mosier (producer of every Kevin Smith project, from Clerks through to Zack and Miri Make A Porno).
The story is exceedingly silly: a turkey that's always felt he was different from the rest of the flock (colour coded contrary to his peers, for maximum ostracism) is selected as the "pardoned turkey" and brought to Camp David as a plaything for the president's possibly narcoleptic daughter. Our flightless protagonist Reggie (Owen Wilson being Owen Wilson) embraces the privileged American Way of life, one filled with pizza and television, until a mentally challenged factory farm escapee, Jake (Woody Harrelson), upends his cushy existence with a sacred mission from "the Great Turkey." They have to go back in time to the first Thanksgiving, in order to convince the settlers to try an alternative celebratory food source — it's not the most strenuously researched film.
Naturally, there's a secret government laboratory beneath Camp David and Jake drags Reggie along on an infiltration mission that results in the two very different birds being hurled through time and space in an egg-shaped temporal displacement vessel voiced by George Takei. Once in the past, they encounter racist caricatures of the noble warrior birds turkeys were before being made fat, stupid and docile by hundreds of years of human captivity. They wear war paint, headdresses and otherwise appropriate superficial characteristics and social customs from North American's indigenous human tribes.
Putting the weakly considered moral politics aside, the voice performances, including contributions from Amy Poehler and Keith David, help keep the slapstick humour from being as moribund as the plot, even if half the jokes revolve around Jake flexing his dark meat.
The gusto of the actors, the odd arbitrary gag and an appealing fall colour palette should make Free Birds palatable enough for adults and kids to enjoy together, but it's not substantial enough to become go-to seasonal viewing. (eOne)