film reel image

film reel image

Monday, December 2, 2013

Free Birds 2013 * * * Stars

Free BirdsDirector: Jimmy Hayward
Year: 2013
Rated PG
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Woody Harrelson, Owen Wilson, Dan Fogler

If you can get past the fact that the animation is not entirely groundbreaking (I might have thought otherwise had I seen it in 3D), then you'll still find a satisfyingly, sweet natured element to the Thanksgiving themed Free Birds. With characters voiced by the likes of Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson, "Birds" tells an interesting and enduring story about a band of turkeys (actual turkeys mind you) that come together to stop their species from becoming the main dinner item for thousands of future Thanksgivings. They do this by going back in time to the first day of its inaugural November inception back in 1621. Owen Wilson voices the main character who is Reggie. Reggie, who is teamed up with his polar opposite in Jake (voiced by Woody Harrelson), also falls in love with a resourceful female turkey in Jenny (Amy Poehler). The three of them along with many other of their determined kind, try to escape and outwit a band of colonel hunters led by an evil, gun toting pilgrim named Myles Standish (the sequences involving the Standish character harbor an element of cartoon violence that might have propelled the MPAA board to give this thing a PG rating).

Despite the inclusion of the intense action sequences just mentioned (they might possibly upset really young kids ages 4-5 years old) and a rather limp opening 15 minutes, this is still a pretty solid family film. Watching it, you realize that the story counts here, not the lack of eye popping special effects. The ending which I can't give away, is equally surprising and somewhat inventive. The adult humor which animation flicks add in to keep accompanying parents fitfully occupied, is good in equal bits here and there. The characters which are likable (Owen Wilson's Reggie is one you sympathize with and root for) and charismatically unlikable, don't fade in and out of the proceedings like in so many other types of computer-animated fare (with a large, varied cast).

Overall, Free Birds doesn't quite set the world on fire. It's standardized, harmless fun that does just enough to get by. It also basically adheres to the same formula as any other computed generated exercise in the last decade (complete with a plot involving an innocent/ardently chosen main character followed by a love interest, an antagonist, a couple of protagonists, and a mentor/father figure). But it did come out at the perfect time in theaters (late November of course) and subjugates itself as a outdated yet satisfyingly grave, old fashioned kids movie. I recommend seeing it unless extravagant caricatures like the 3D Frozen and mega hit Despicable Me 2 are what you prefer. Free Birds to me, is something that might have been overlooked this holiday season based on its underwhelming box office take. It's the movie equivalent of a Thanksgiving food that you might have never ate. I say how do you know you won't like it, if you've never even tried it.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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