Skip Navigation

Video Reviews

Plugged In Rating
Content Caution
MPAA Rating
Credits
Genre
Comedy, Animation, Kids
Cast
Voices of Owen Wilson as Reggie; Woody Harrelson as Jake; Amy Poehler as Jenny; George Takei as S.T.E.V.E.; Colm Meaney as Myles Standish; Keith David as Chief Broadbeak
Director
Jimmy Hayward (Jonah Hex, Horton Hears a Who!)
Distributor
Relativity Media
In Theaters
November 1, 2013
On Video
February 4, 2014
Reviewer
Bob Hoose
Free Birds

Free Birds

Reggie is a loner. He's also a turkey. So that makes him the lone wolf of turkeys, if you will.

(Cue the sound of a sighing wind and a distant, lonely gobble.)

OK, even though that may sound cool and all, it's not what Reggie really wants to be. He wants to blend in with all the other birds around him. But there's a problem: Reggie is an intelligent, foresighted fowl in a flock of featherheaded flunkies.

He warns the others of the dark dangers of Thanksgiving, but they just won't listen to him. They don't understand. They keep pecking up the feed, growing fatter and fatter while longing for the day when the farmer will show up to take them away to turkey paradise. Ha! Turkey-and-a-pair-of-pumpkin-pies is more like it.

Then something strange happens. A big brawny bird named Jake shows up, grabs Reggie and tries to convince him that he's a part of some crazy organization called the TFF: Turkey Freedom Front.

Reggie wants to laugh, but the crazed glint in Jake's eye makes him choke the giggle back. This guy is totally serious. Jake talks of a special mission that they must undertake together. A mission delegated to Jake by someone called "The Great Turkey." And get this, it's a time-travel quest into the past! A journey back to the days of the pilgrims. An operation designed to wipe the scourge of Thanksgiving turkey-eating from the consciousness of humankind.

At this point, Reggie is certain Jake is indeed a crazybird. The Great Turkey? Secret missions? A journey through time?! Reggie wonders if he's the only sane and smart turkey left on the face of the earth.

But Jake soon finds a secret elevator leading to an underground military complex and an actual time machine. And, well, Reggie decides he may need to rethink things.

Positive Elements

Although Reggie and Jake are often scrambling around at cross purposes, they both have a common desire to change the hopeless dinnertime fate of the modern turkey. Reggie tries repeatedly to enlighten his brothers to the man-eat-bird world around them. And, in flashback, we see a young Jake dedicated to saving a few turkey eggs from human predators.

When Reg and Jake find a way back into history, they also come to care for the turkey tribe of that era—working diligently to save their new friends from a colonist named Standish and his band of heartless hunters. Reggie and Jake, naturally, suggest that the turkeys find a way to fight against their human attackers. But Chief Broadbeak insists, "We do not fight—we defend, we protect and we survive."

[Spoiler Warning] Later, the chief follows through on his word, selflessly giving his life to save his fellow turkeys in a moment of great threat and danger. As for Reggie, because of his experiences in the past (with both turkeys and humans), he ultimately comes to understand the meaning of sharing a time of thanksgiving with family and friends—especially when the meal's main course is a turkey-free entrée.

When Reggie falls for Jenny, a brave little member of the colonial tribe, she comes to value him for his brains and heart, in spite of his scrawny physique.

Spiritual Content

Early on, the modern-day turkeys reject Reggie's warnings and call him the "anticorn." When Standish sees Reggie and Jake's giant egg-like time machine disappear (with Reggie in it), he gasps in wonder, calling it magic. Later, that same bright, hovering craft gives Reggie the ability to convince men and turkeys alike that he is a "god-like" deity.

Sexual Content

When Reggie first meets Jenny, he senses her connection with Ranger, a turkey tribe leader. Reggie asks her, "Are you guys, like, rubbing waddles?" She assures him that's not the case. (Indeed, Ranger is her brother.) And so Reggie and Jenny do eventually rub waddles (kiss) offscreen.

An American Indian brave comically wears a slice of pizza like a makeshift loincloth.

Violent Content

Modern-day soldiers shoot flamethrower bursts in the direction of a trespassing Reggie and Jake. And war breaks out between the human colonists and the turkey tribe. Humans and turkeys are thumped and pummeled, but it's the turkeys who tend to get the worst of that action—as they're burned out of their underground compound, shot at, blasted with dynamite, chased by angry dogs, caught, manhandled and tossed in cages. Eventually, though, the turkeys get it together and hurl flaming pumpkins at their foes. (Before things turn truly deadly, however, Reggie finds a way to save the day.)

One turkey dies in a fiery tumult (offscreen). One human perishes, too, but that's apparently from old age.

Most of the rest of the slam-bam is of the truly slap(drum)stick variety. For example, Jake smacks Reggie a number of times to get his attention. Jake and Ranger comically face off in a slapping/dancing showdown. Reggie is slammed about within the quick-moving time machine. And Jake and Reggie tumble down a hillside thumping various objects with their noggins.

Crude or Profane Language

The British slang "bleeding" is used two or three times. We hear sporadic exclamations of "son of a gun," "what the heck?" and "you idiot!"

Drug and Alcohol Content

Standish usually has a small cigarette protruding from his bottom lip.

Other Negative Elements

There are a number of turkey-butt jokes in the mix involving everything from flared tail feathers to "flexed glutes."

At one point Reggie is "adopted" as a pet by the daughter of the U.S. president. The high-strung girl rattles off "facts" to the turkey about the people who pass by, including: "That's Paul, he's getting a divorce," "That's the girl who likes my daddy," and, "That's Marsha, she eats her feelings."

And when you put yourself fully behind the beak of a turkey, the negativity of this flashback scene becomes quite clear: We find out that Jake was raised in a turkey factory, where thousands of birds are kept locked away, isolated and emotionally suffering in tiny cages.

Conclusion

Talking turkeys go back in time to make sure their forebears are left off the original Thanksgiving menu. Hmmm. Could this be yet another jolly holiday pic hungry for a little of your bank account corn? Another slice of sugary cinema designed to lure you in after a bout of get-together gobbling?

Or is it an angry anti-Thanksgiving agenda movie, desperate to take down all those horrible human colonists (humans, arrgh!) who so carelessly and selfishly took the lives of so many innocent birds? (Never mind that turkey wasn't even made a regular part of the Thanksgiving bill of fare until the mid-1800s.) Is that really PETA-propaganda finger-pointing wedged in between all the comic gobbles, squawks and feathery flutters? Could The Great Turkey even be a fowl stand-in for God?

Or maybe all that's just indigestion-spurred cynicism and tryptophan bleariness. 'Cause mostly this is just a cutesy kids' pic that packs a few chuckles, a shallow life lesson or two, a couple of sweet moments, a little action and a whole lot of goofy silliness into a 90-minute dollop of pumpkin-pie whipped cream fluff. (Which makes me wonder if the sequel will focus on the revolt of the orange gourds.)

More