A limp, misguided animation about turkeys attempting to escape Thanksgiving
‘Hang on to your nuggets!' proclaims the poster for Free Birds, but director Jimmy Hayward’s film isn’t about chickens, it’s about turkeys. As an example of the wrongheaded brashness of this animated film, this misnomer sets the tone for a dull adventure that wastes its high concept.
The idea is fun: timid bird Reggie (Owen Wilson) escapes becoming someone’s meal for Thanksgiving when he is adopted by the president. But a seemingly chance encounter with the manic Jake (Woody Harrelson) creates a bigger opportunity for Reggie and turkeys everywhere; Jake has access to a time machine called STEVE (Star Trek’s George Takei), and lures Reggie back to the first Thanksgiving in a bid to change the course of history and get the birds off the menu forever. But their arrival in Plymouth circa 1621 drops them into a complex world of turkey politics, as the birds plot the best way to avoid their impending annual genocide.
Coming on the back of Hayward’s similarly garbled Jonah Hex, Free Birds is dead as a dodo compared to recent Pixar and Dreamworks offerings, with personable talent like Amy Poehler and Colm Meaney drowned out by the bland animation. Rammed with irrelevant product placements (Chuck E Cheese pizzas are Reggie’s favourite meal), Free Birds is sprinkled with dubious hand-wringing which equates the plight of turkeys with Native Americans, something even the most hardened animal rights activist might balk at.
Animated films, particularly in 3D, have become a safe bet for parents seeking to placate their kids, but Free Birds lacks the humour, pathos or narrative skill of a proper children’s film. It’s not their nuggets that parents should hang onto but their cash; the arrival of Disney’s vastly superior Frozen will give these limp birds a well-deserved roasting at the 2013 festive box office.
General release from Fri 29 Nov.