“Free Birds” (2013) FILM REVIEW
Written by Jambareeqi
Posted 19th August, 2018
Reggie is a loner in his flock of simple minded Turkeys, due to his awareness of what happens to his kind at Thanksgiving, but when the truth is revealed, Reggie is sacrificed to the humans. However, Reggie isn’t slaughtered, he instead becomes the pardoned by the president, and the American leader’s daughter adopts the turkey.
Life is sweet at the presidential mansion, Reggie is pretty much spoilt rotten, but his comforts are interupted by an eccentric musclebound turkey called Jake, who insists that he joins a time travel quest to save the first turkeys from the pilgrims, and Reggie involuntarily tags along with Jake’s mission.
Once in the past, Jake and Reggie meet their ancestors, a flock of native turkeys that are trying to survive from the pilgrim hunters, and our heroes must do their part to keep everyone alive. While staying in this time period, Jake and Reggie become attached to the flock, while Reggie develops romantic feelings for the chief’s daughter Jenny.
The idea of turkeys going back in time to stop thanksgiving is a unique premise, but sadly, this film squanders a terrific concept, and becomes yet another generic talking animal comedy. Tell an endearing timeless story? Nah! Much easier to keep trying excessively hard to be funny using obnoxious comic relief animals.
Right away, there’s an obvious plot hole staring at the audience, why don’t Reggie & Jake use the time machine to transport the flock to the future? Sure, the time machine is small, and needs to recharge itself sometimes, but they could have taken several trips to rescue them, and then there wouldn’t have been any turkeys for the pilgrims to kill.
Yes, if they did this, then the film would have been over after 30 minutes, but ignoring a plot hole to push a story forward, is an example of forced storytelling in a nutshell, and the alternative should have been to make the time machine broken instead. The time machine is an option, a really obvious one, yet our heroes ignore it, so that the film can have a “settling with the natives” story, and a more difficult solution to the turkey genocide is chosen instead; how else can we make this movie 90 minutes long? *Sigh*
The movie wants to conclude with a nice thanksgiving message that depends on all parties being present, which is all fine and dandy, but what are we left with until said resolution? Jake and the chief’s son arrogantly competing with each other in a series of immature unfunny conflicts, while Jenny the token female love interest and Reggie the cliche social outcast develop a charmless romance.
Jake and the chief’s son are just as annoying as each other, there’s nothing amusing about their alpha male clashes, no matter how long the film drags out their idiotic rivalry, and I was never having fun when they childishly fought. While the obligated romance subplot is painfully old hat, once again it’s another bumbling awkward hero who struggles to say anything charming, being matched up with the generic “Chief’s daughter who wants more, but also desires to be loyal to her people” character.
Fortunately, the movie does gather momentum towards the finale, when Jake and Reggie break into the Pilgrim’s weaponry, blow it up, and end up leading the hunters to the flock’s home. This sequence is where action, excitement, high stakes, and tension are FINALLY introduced! Lives are lost, characters must prove their loyalty, and it’s all executed with nuanced maturity. Shame that the movie doesn’t get any fun until this point, it’s not a mind blowing step up or anything, but it’s certainly better than what we’ve put up with in the first hour, and proves that the film IS capable of trying.
To be honest, the best aspect of the film, is the time machine itself, who goes by the name of S.T.E.V.E., and is voiced by the always enjoyable George Takei. While most movie time machines are simply vehicles for traveling dimensions, this one has a charmingly cheeky personality, throwing shade on our dumb protagonists, and expressing relatably human eccentricities. Sadly, he’s sidelined for most of the film, left to collect dust, while we focus on the annoying turkeys, and it’s like we’re being punished.
In conclusion, “Free Birds” is the very definition of lost potential, a movie with a great concept that’s wasted in favour of comfortable cliches and desperate humour. It’s comedy is often insufferable, never raising my laugh above a 1 on the volume scale, and gags with promise are ruined by cocky overkill.
Will it keep quiet for an hour and a half? Sure, but they deserve better than uninspired babysitter fodder like this, and the rest of the family shouldn’t have to suffer while being forced to join. The film does increase it’s excitement levels towards the end, and S.T.E.V.E. is one lovable time machine, but we shouldn’t have to WAIT for a movie to get good.
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