A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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 Between the outdated Bill Clinton-esque president (voiced by Hayward); the insensitive Native American-esque wild turkeys of the 1600s; and the various time-travel issues, there's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.
Talk to your kids 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?
- In theaters: November 1, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: 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
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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