Free Birds Movie Poster Image

Free Birds



Clever idea turns bland in turkey-focused holiday fare.
  • Review Date: October 30, 2013
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 2013
  • Running Time: 90 minutes

What parents need to know

Educational value

Kids will hear the same trivia about the First Thanksgiving that they probably learned in school: that in 1621, a group of English settlers at Plymouth Colony (the Pilgrims) and members of the local Indian tribe (the Wampanoag) shared in an autumnal feast together that included wild turkey. The animated Pilgrims also make it clear that they needed to trade with the Wampanoag to survive.

Positive messages

There's a message of collaboration, teamwork, leadership, and working toward the greater good. However there's also a borderline insensitive depiction of wild turkeys as being a lot like Native Americans.

Positive role models

Jake is devoted to helping the turkey cause; Jenny is a strong female character who's a great leader. The Chief is wise and self sacrificing. Reggie learns how to be a turkey who is part of something bigger than himself.

Violence & scariness

The Secret Service hold guns. The Pilgrims hunt with guns. Myles Standish uses fire and guns to destroy the turkey habitat. The turkeys fight back.

Sexy stuff

Reggie watches a telenovela about a loner who is always surrounded by beautiful women. Reggie falls almost immediately in love with Jenny, whose turkey body is a human-like hourglass figure with large breasts. They flirt and eventually kiss.


Insults like "dumb," "son of a gun," "coward," "the anti-corn."


Some of the pizza boxes say "Chuck-E-Cheese"; there's an overt reference to Angry Birds, Old Navy, and Auntie Anne's.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Free Birds is an animated time-travel adventure that tells the story of the first Thanksgiving from the perspective of the turkeys desperate to keep the Pilgrims and Native Americans from leading to the annual destruction of their kind. There's some gun violence and an important character is killed. The language includes some insults like "dumb" and "coward," plus there's some borderline insensitive depictions of turkeys as similar to Native Americans. Plus, there's a romantic subplot and glimpses of a telenovela where a man is always surrounded by beautiful women. Families may enjoy discussing the history of Thanksgiving.

What's the story?

In FREE BIRDS, Reggie (voiced by Owen Wilson) has always been the odd turkey out. He's smarter than the rest of his flock and understands they're being fattened up for slaughter. When the president arrives for the annual turkey pardon, Reggie ends up the lucky fowl thanks to the young first daughter. Back at Camp David, Reggie is living it up with telenovelas and pizza delivery when he's kidnapped by Jake (Woody Harrelson), a strong, scatterbrained turkey. Jake tells Reggie that "The Great Turkey" has sent them on a mission to go back in time to the First Thanksgiving and "get turkeys off the menu." Reggie is skeptical, but soon the pair discovers a secret time machine and ends up in Plymouth Colony 1621.

Is it any good?


The movie will undoubtedly please young kids who love talking animals, silly sight gags, and the idea of a group of turkeys fighting back to keep them safe. Writer-director Jimmy Hayward, a veteran animator (Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!), had a clever kernel of an idea -- what if turkeys could somehow get themselves off the Thanksgiving menu without condemning any other animals to their seasonal holiday-meal fate? But the simple storyline got muddled in the execution. Between the outdated Bill Clinton-esque president (voiced by Hayward); the insensitive Native American-esque wild turkeys of the 1600s; and the various time-travel issues, there's just too much happening all at once.

There are a few laughs, like George Takei as the voice of the HAL-like time travel machine S.T.E.V.E., and the alpha-turkey competitiveness between Harrelson's Jake and the chief's son. And it's always a treat to hear Amy Poehler, who plays the chief's courageous daughter Jenny and Reggie's love interest. But it's not enough to make this a must-see every holiday season, and Free Birds may disappoint parents and possibly confuse young kids not used to the time-travel plot device.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how Free Birds compares to other Thanksgiving-set movies.

  • Does the movie change your opinion about eating turkey at Thanksgiving? Do you think the movie has a "vegeterian agenda" as some critics have suggested?

  • Is it culturally insensitive for the turkeys to wear headdresses and generally look like they're Native Americans?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 1, 2013
DVD release date:February 4, 2014
Cast:Amy Poehler, Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson
Director:Jimmy Hayward
Studio:Relativity Media
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Adventures, Holidays, Wild animals
Run time:90 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:some action/peril and rude humor

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent Written byangela2678 November 4, 2013

Giant waste of time

Ugh--what a giant waste of time. Even the KIDS thought it was awful. Boring, and every scene seemed drawn out way longer than necessary--my 12-year-old said after that it seemed like they were "filling in the time with stupid stuff." Seriously one of the worst kids' movies I've seen in years. Such a shame, because it was a cute concept and the preview looked great.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Kid, 10 years old November 1, 2013

Great movie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11

this movie was greeeaaatt!!!!!!!!!!!!!It was all out hilarous! peple were litterly crying away their laughs.their is a little fort bombing violence and scenes where characters are in grave has mild turkey innuendo and some sad moments.But i was literally laughing my pants of!!!!!!!!!!!!!
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much consumerism
Teen, 17 years old Written byndrwcd November 1, 2013

if your a kid 12 and under you would give this movie 5 out of 5 but if your a teen or an adult you will find yourself facepalming and would prefer to see Thor the Dark World instead

It's better than escape from planet earth but is the second worst animated movie I have seen for 2013 plus I wanted to like this movie due to its goofy plot,me being a big fan of Owen Wilson and me being a fan of animated movies in general but unfortunately what could have been a really funny seemovie turned into a clique lowbrow humor movie that was kinda boring and the comedy isn't really funny and only kids will will find the comedy in this movie funny,teens and adults will fall asleep,plus I like mindless action as much as the next guy but it gets annoying when there's action for no reason other than the sake of adding action
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much consumerism


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