Free Birds

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Free Birds Movie Poster Image
Clever idea turns bland in turkey-focused holiday fare.
  • PG
  • 2013
  • 90 minutes

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 13 reviews

Kids say

age 6+
Based on 35 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

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

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bycalgreenusa November 3, 2013

This movie was GREAT !!!

More Power to the Birds !!!

If you appreciate really good family entertainment, Free Birds is a must see as this movie grandly delivers good fun!

We personal... Continue reading
Adult Written bybcdiosa November 11, 2013

Good family fun movie for children under 9 years-old.

I took my 5 and 8 year-olds to this movie and they enjoyed it. Yes there were a couple of scenes where they said, "dang" but it wasn't extremely... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byJonathan Arrel May 31, 2014

Fun Idea, bad movie

The film starts out okay, however, what could have been a great movie turned out boring. The plot line was boring, the humor wasn't there. Even more so, th... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bysophie14799 May 5, 2014

not good

there is so much violence in this film i don't recommend

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?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love animated movies

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

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