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‘Free Birds’: Turkeys nicely animated, but the story’s undercooked

‘FREE BIRDS’ ★★1⁄2

With the voices of:

Reggie Owen Wilson

Jake Woody Harrelson

Jenny Amy Poehler

S.T.E.V.E. George Takei

Relativity Media presents a film directed by Jimmy Hayward and written by Hayward and Scott Mosier. Running time: 91 minutes. Rated PG (for some action/peril and rude humor). Opens Friday at local theaters.

Updated: December 2, 2013 11:30AM



Warning to all turkey farmers out there! You will not be happy to hear about “Free Birds.”

Methinks more than a few kids who see this animated film about time-traveling turkeys, out to change history to keep their kind off Thanksgiving dinner tables, may have second thoughts about chowing down on a drumstick come Nov. 28.

Considering the large number of Christmas, Easter and Valentine’s Day flicks out there — animated or live-action — it’s somewhat comforting to see the “Free Birds” creators have focused on Thanksgiving, adding a nice little twist.

What if a couple of turkeys could travel back to that fateful first Thanksgiving in 1621 and come up with a way to discourage our Pilgrim forefathers from zeroing in on wild New England turkeys as the perfect main entrée for that initial feast of gratitude.

Voiced with perfect enthusiasm by Owen Wilson, Reggie is a turkey who has always been an outsider on his farm — mainly because he possesses tons more brain power than his fellow gobblers. Due to a bit of a fluke, Reggie scores the biggest prize any turkey can snare — to be “pardoned” by the U.S. president, and thus saved from ending up roasted to a crispy golden brown and carved up by somebody’s Uncle Joe on Thanksgiving afternoon.

“Retired” to Camp David, Reggie embarks on a life of leisure — discovering such “joys” as non-stop pizza delivery and the telenovela soap operas.

Enter the mysterious wild turkey Jake (Woody Harrelson), who enlists the very reluctant Reggie to join on a top-secret mission that will transport them back to 1621 — and the aforementioned crusade to convince Pilgrims that turkeys, while easily confused, should not be consumed.

While younger children will be entertained by “Free Birds,” there isn’t a lot here for older audiences. Yes, the animation is well-executed, but the need for 3D here is really superfluous.

While the overall concept of the script is pretty creative and original, at several points along the way the storyline gets a bit muddled. That will be perturbing to the younger kids and slightly less annoying for the older people in the audience.

No, “Free Birds” is not (sorry) a turkey of a film. But it doesn’t really soar terribly high either. I only wish the quality of the writing in the earlier parts of the movie had been maintained throughout. If that had been the case, Reggie, Jake and their fellow turkeys just might have been flying high with the eagles — our official national birds.

Email: bzwecker@suntimes.com

Twitter: @billzwecker



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