The good news: The talking turkeys in Free Birds are so unappealing and unfunny that your kids will probably feel guilt-free eating their real-life counterparts this Thanksgiving. The bad news: You might have to sit through Free Birds.
In the first feature by Dallas-based animation studio Reel FX, two very different gobblers join forces to travel back in time to circa 1621 — the date of the first Thanksgiving feast — in an effort to take poultry off the menu. Reggie (Owen Wilson) is the only turkey on his farm smart enough to know his days are numbered come November. Luckily for him, he’s saved from an undignified death when he’s pardoned by the president of the United States and flown to Camp David, where he’s treated to a life of unlimited pizza and cable TV — until he’s kidnapped by a cocky meathead of a turkey named Jake (Woody Harrelson), who pulls him into a scheme to hijack a top-secret government time machine that whisks them back to the era of the early settlers.
There, Reggie and Jake help a comely she-turkey Jenny (Amy Poehler) and her feathered tribe battle an evil game hunter intent on feeding them to a group of hungry colonists and their Native American ”friends.” This is where a ridiculous, potentially amusing premise devolves into a series of hurried (and vaguely offensive) natives-against-musket-wielding-intruders tropes (the 17th-century turkeys even live in a Home Tree of sorts, à la Avatar). Often, you can point to a middling animated film’s visuals as its saving grace. But this colonial world, which should feel like an expansive autumnal panorama, feels oddly inert and two-dimensional. In the end, the jokes simply aren?t funny enough to lift these flight-challenged fowl off the ground. C