Reggie (Owen Wilson) is the only turkey in his rafter who knows the awful truth about Thanksgiving, and that the slaughter shed is not ‘Turkey Paradise’. When the President pardons him – as is tradition – Reggie finds himself teamed up with oddball Jake (Woody Harrelson), as they travel back through time to the first Thanksgiving, to take turkey off the menu for good.
There is the germ of a great idea at the heart of Free Birds, but Thanksgiving is a truly American tradition and celebration, that has not really travelled to the rest of the world. The film does not try to address the historical issues that led to Thanksgiving being celebrated in the first place, but instead casts its eye over the survival of talking turkeys.
Owen Wilson proved with Cars and Cars 2 that he has a great talent for voicing animated characters, and Reggie is no exception. Wilson infuses the character with warmth and curiosity. Woody Harrelson does fine as the slightly screwy Jake, and Amy Poehler brings the charm and the laughs as Jenny. Poehler’s comedic timing is wonderful, as usual, but it is George Takei as the voice of the time machine – S.T.E.V.E – who stands out. Takei plays on his trademark voice for the character and has some of the best lines in the film.
Screenwriters Jimmy Hayward and Scott Mosier – Yes, that Scott Mosier, the one known for collaborating with Kevin Smith – have created a fun adventure movie with plenty of laughs for the kids, even though the humans are a little reminiscent of the CDA in Monsters Inc. That said, the film does lag in the middle and, while the animation is generally quite beautiful, the over simplified historical aspect of the film may leave children wondering what the point of Thanksgiving is, and adults wondering at the gap in the film’s exposition.
Director Jimmy Hayward makes great use of his casts strengths, and allows them to play on comedy, sentiment and action; all of which work in the film’s favour. The running time goes against the story, however, as the lag in pacing is all too evident in the film.
In all, Free Birds is a film with some great performances from the cast. The story is lacking in parts and the pacing messy. The story may captivate US audiences, but since we do not celebrate Thanksgiving at this side of the Atlantic, it could leave some audiences scratching their heads. Still, George Takei is wonderful, and Poehler is always a delight.