Let’s say out of the bat that Free Birds is not at the level of a Pixar or a DreamWorks Animation movie. In fact, it’s not in the same league: The animation is computer generated but rather crude, the story is minimal and a complete cliché, and has no ambitions of transcendence.
As it happens, said shortcomings are tremendously liberating.
Free Birds’ anything goes atmosphere opens the door to zany comedy Looney Tunes-stylee. I’m not saying the film is consistent in this approach, but every so often hits the right note. It’s perfectly aware the premise (time-travelling turkeys attempting to prevent the first Thanksgiving and henceforth the slaughtering of their kind) is all kind of ridiculous and doesn’t shy away from riffing on it.
After narrowly avoiding his fate thanks to a Presidential pardon, Reggie (Owen Wilson channeling Woody Allen) becomes the First Pet of the administration du jour. No longer burdened by impending death, the turkey becomes addicted to pizza and Mexican soap operas.
Reggie’s blessed life comes to an end when he is kidnapped by fellow bird Jake (Woody Harrelson), member of the Turkey Freedom Force. Jake is convinced the government has a time machine that will allow them to travel to 1621, in time for the first Thanksgiving. While this is partially true, they become more a problem than an asset, since the XVII century turkeys have a handle on the situation.
The weaker moments of Free Birds match the plot moving forward. The mechanics of the film are barely perfunctory, and the rules of time travelling mean nothing here (granted, the lack of attention to detail is mocked frequently). Native Americans are mostly absent of the proceedings as the turkeys stand in for them (it’s not as offensive as it sounds… Okay, maybe a little.) The movie may keep toddlers entertained for now, but beware: The big guns (Disney’s Frozen, Walking with Dinosaurs) are still a month away. Two wild turkeys. No ice.