Free Birds (U)

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Review byMatthew Turner27/11/2013

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 91 mins

Disappointing, poorly thought out animated comedy that fails to deliver any decent laughs and is further let down by a slapdash script, some blatant product placement and a miscast Woody Harrelson.

What's it all about?
Directed by Jimmy Hayward, Free Birds is an animated comedy adventure that stars Owen Wilson as Reggie, a scrawny turkey who receives the traditional Presidential pardon at Thanksgiving and goes to live in the White House with the President's excitable daughter Jenny (Amy Poehler). However, he's soon kidnapped by commando-esque, birdbrained turkey Jake (Woody Harrelson), who persuades him to time-travel back to Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621, in order to stop turkeys from becoming a traditional meal at Thanksgiving.

The Good
Wilson is fine as Reggie, playing the character more or less in line with his own dopey-but-smart screen persona. There's also strong comic support from Amy Poehler (the best thing in the film, but criminally under-used) and George Takei (also under-used) as talking time-machine S.T.E.V.E., but Harrelson is badly miscast as Jake and delivers a painfully one-note performance that has no trace of his distinctive voice and might as well be anonymous (you sense the filmmakers really wanted Stallone for the part).

The Bad
Aside from the America-centric and largely non-sensical plot (okay, fine, save the Thanksgiving turkeys, but what about all the turkeys that get eaten all over the world at Christmas?), the film's main problem is that the jokes simply aren't funny – indeed, there's not a single laugh-out-loud moment in the whole thing. This is largely the fault of the slapdash script, which takes a scattershot, throw-everything-at-the-screen-and-hope-some-of-it-sticks approach and lacks anything approaching wit or invention – they don't even take advantage of the time-travel gimmick, aside from a throwaway scene that seems shoe-horned in and doesn't work anyway.

It's also fair to say that the film ignores a much better potential storyline involving Reggie living in the White House with Jenny - the opening scenes are actually quite promising, but are quickly jettisoned once Jake shows up. On top of that, the film's resolution depends heavily on some blatant product placement that makes it seem as if the entire film was funded by this particular company (Chuck E. Cheese), whose agenda (SPOILER - replace turkey with pizza at Thanksgiving) seems rather nakedly obvious.

Worth seeing?
Free Birds is a disappointing, badly written animated comedy that is best avoided. See the wonderful Frozen instead.

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Content updated: 15/12/2017 02:22

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