Free Birds

Posted November 3, 2013 by in


Total Score

2.5/ 5

Quick Stats

Genre: animation
Director: Jimmy Hayward
MPAA Rating: PG
Actors: Woody Harrelson, Owen Wilson, Dan Fogler
Length: 91 minutes
Release Date: 11/1/2013
Studio: Reel FX Creative Studios, Relativity Media
What We Thought

Humorous, but struggles in the home stretch.

by Daniel Hodgson
Full Article
Free Birds, the latest computer animated film to hit theaters, is like Looper, only…loopier.
     Two turkeys travel back in time to stop their kind from becoming the main course of the first Thanksgiving.  Reggie (Owen Wilson) is the poultry-protagonist, a Sancho Panza to Jake’s (Woody Harrelson) dim-witted Don Quixote, who thinks The Great Turkey has sent him on a mission to go back in time to save turkeykind.
     Having reached 1621, Reggie and Jake are saved from a hunting party by a tribe of turkeys.  Reggie gets romantically involved with Jenny (Amy Poehler), the tribal chief’s daughter, while Jake squares off against rival alpha male Ranger (Jimmy Hayward), the chief’s son.
     The chief himself is voiced by Keith David, a deep-voiced actor well suited to the authority figure role.  And, oh my, George Takei is a fun casting choice as S.T.E.V.E. (Space-Time Exploration Vehicle Envoy), an artificially intelligent time machine with a sense of humor, who happens to be shaped like a turkey egg.
     The film’s slapstick humor should keep children engaged, but adults will enjoy Free Bird’s dialog and situational comedy.  There’s a moment where Reggie holds a hungry chick.  “Awww, she wants you to throw up worms into her mouth,” Jenny suggests.  “What girl wouldn’t?”  A strange come-on, even for a turkey.
     While often humorous, Free Birds struggles tonally going into the home stretch.  A side character dies going into the third act, and the film takes time to mourn his sacrifice.  Considering that Free Birds is a slap-stick cartoon for kids about time traveling turkeys, this is far graver than it needs to be, and the film never really recovers.
     The animation by Reel FX is adequate, especially in background detail, though not quite on par with where Pixar, DreamWorks, or Blue Sky are currently, especially where the human characters are concerned.  The film receives a 3D release, but doesn’t do much with the format.
     Free Birds marks the theatrical debut for the studio, moving up from straight-to-DVD animated fare, similar to how Rainmaker Entertainment did earlier this year with Escape from Planet Earth.  Another commonality is that both films are buddy comedies—much like Pixar’s feature film debut Toy Story was.   Coincidence?  As it happens, writer/director Jimmy Hayward was an animator on the original Toy Story and its sequel.  There’s a hint of the heart that Pixar stories have here, but by the time it discovers it, the moment comes too late for Free Birds to be more than disposable entertainment.

About the Author

Daniel Hodgson

Daniel has a degree in film from the University of Texas at Austin, and writes about himself in the third-person, because that's the fashion.


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