BY THOMAS WOOD
When imagining seasonal movies, one’s mind likely travels immediately to the same few holidays. Christmas is a clear and obvious culprit, with Halloween soon to follow. Even Groundhog Day is a name that belongs to both movie and holiday. However, although it’s one of the significant American staple events, Thanksgiving hardly receives the same cinematic splendor as its colleagues. That was until 2013 when Free Birds was released in theaters nationwide. Does this movie do the classic American holiday justice?
Our movie stars Reggie, a turkey who belongs to a simple flock on a farm. He lives a rather unsatisfying life, being the smartest and significantly least liked in his flock, until he learns he’s been selected as this year’s pardoned turkey. For a while after this, he lives a life of leisure, only lifting a finger to call the pizza man and change the TV channel. This is until Jake, a turkey from a faraway flock, recruits Reggie to go on a quest to stop the first Thanksgiving and get turkeys off the menu.
This movie is, at best, extremely confusing. The plot takes several turns in the first fifteen minutes, leading you to believe the movie will be about something different every single time. The final plot is hardly worth the wait, too. It feels contrived and meaningless a lot of the time. When one takes a step back to really think about the things at stake during the action scenes, one learns that perhaps nothing of importance can even be lost. It feels like the writers were really banking on the viewer forming a connection to Reggie 20 minutes into the film, which is extremely unlikely given how lazy and gripey he is. Even if I form a deep connection to this awful turkey in such a short time, I fail to see a reason to care for his goal. I like to eat turkey on Thanksgiving. Generally speaking, most people enjoy eating turkey on Thanksgiving. Why would I want Reggie to succeed?
With how strange the plot can seem, maybe the minds behind the movie focused their work on the animation. After all, this movie did come out the same year as beautiful movies like Frozen and Monsters University. However, upon close examination, it can be found that the animation in Free Birds is not awesome. Many of the scenes feel empty–as if a character taking a sharp turn while walking would end up in a blank abyss. For a large majority of the movie taking place in a forest setting, there’s a distinct lack of trees and foliage in said forest. The dogs that chase the main characters about three times during the story look weird and mangled, like they just got out of a clothes dryer. And yes, these dogs chase the main characters three times. Conflict is hard to come up with.
One of the few good things I can say about this movie involves its comedy. It’s very capable of being funny, and it made me chuckle a few times. However, literally none of the gags that made me laugh involved the main character. Reggie is so painfully unfunny and impossible to relate to that it just feels like a drag every time he’s on screen. I’d almost prefer if Jake was the main character; even if he’s a one-note character, at least he’s an interesting one-note character.
All in all, Free Birds is not a very good movie. At best, it made me laugh with my friends, but at worst, it made me want to shut it off and go outside. The brief comedy spurts gave me enough energy to finish the movie, but at what cost? What did I gain by watching Free Birds?