Monday, November 18, 2013

Moonlight Movie Reviews - Free Birds


Well, I don't very often make it out to the non-Disney animated features, simply because it is anyone's guess which will be good and which won't, and computer animation isn't as alluring as hand-drawn to me when it's not Disney or Disney/PIXAR. Still, when you come out with a movie about Thanksgiving, THANKSGIVING, you know I gotta check that out! 




Let me start off by saying, it's been a few days since I saw this one, but I'll do my best, and I'm gonna keep this as brief as I can, because I should have been asleep hours ago. So, here's the plot: A turkey named Reggie, voiced by Owen Wilson, lives on a turkey farm and is the only one that isn't a complete idiot. He tries to warn the other turkeys all the time that they are there to be food for the humans, ESPECIALLY on Thanksgiving, but the other turkeys are blissfully dumb and think of nothing but corn and how cool the farmer is. When the President of the United States shows up to select a turkey, the other turkeys finally catch on, but they still don't appreciate Reggie and toss him out of their hiding place to be the only one visible for selection. The president's daughter takes a liking to him, and he soon discovers that being selected by the president means he is the "pardoned turkey" and won't have to worry about being eaten after all. He spends his time happily ordering pizzas and watching TV at Camp David, until he gets kidnapped by, of all things, another turkey!
This other turkey is Jake, voiced by Woody Harrelson, who is on a mission to locate a secret, experimental, government funded time machine kept nearby, and to use that time machine to go back in time and stop the first Thanksgiving. After a while, he's able to convince Reggie that he's right about the time machine, and the pair manage to locate it and head back to pilgrim days with the help of S.T.E.V.E., the time-machine itself, voiced by George Takei. 

Once in the past, Reggie and Jake get involved with a group of turkeys at least partially Native American inspired, which are far more intelligent than the modern day, farm-raised variety. Jake and Reggie attempt to convert these turkeys, led by Chief Broadbeak, from hiders to fighters, and lead them against the settlers in some sort of revolt. Their greatest threat, however, is not the average pilgrim folk, but the vicious hired turkey hunter Miles Standish. Oh yeah, and Reggie falls for the Chief's daughter, Jenny (Amy Poehler), while musclebound Jake has a rivalry/friendship developing with fellow meathead Hunter, the Chief's son.

"Free Birds" is basically a time travel spoof with a Thanksgiving theme, though more of a turkey theme than a Thanksgiving theme, but Thanksgiving does play a role, and yes, we do see a version of the first Thanksgiving eventually. It's also a romance, and it's definitely intended as a comedy throughout. I mean, it's not like a PIXAR film, which tend to be of that superior breed that don't fall easily into strict genre labels because they have EVERYTHING. "Free Birds" is a comedy, and it does okay in that respect, but not as well as it could. It's not as funny as other computer animated comedies like those from Dreamworks, which are to PIXAR what the Warner Brothers shorts were to the Disney ones, but it has a fun, lighthearted story, great voice talent and excellent visuals. It's not the Thanksgiving movie we've all been waiting for, it's no Chicken Run either, but it's a fun little adventure that I found enjoyable. It's cute. I can't rave about it, but it is a cute little film with some clever stuff. Like a lot of comedy films, the jokes could easily have been better, but they weren't terrible either. I saw one review from a site you probably know by now that I like to visit a lot, and they ranted about how awful this movie was. Honestly, half the stuff they complained about (the president, his daughter, and so on) wasn't even a big part of the film. There's nothing to hate about this movie, really. I don't look at animated films and judge them as kids' movies just because they are animated. It's sad when a cartoonist, or an animator, or anyone who does something like that views animation as a kids' medium. But, sometimes that IS what it's intended for. In this case, it is easy to write it off as something intended for kids specifically. I don't know how accurate that is though. Definitely, it has jokes intended for the adults and I can't help but think a lot of the general plot involving time travel, and definitely a lot of the jokes on the subject, would go over the heads of the many small children that were in the tiny theater I saw it in, so more than anything I think it was trying to be a film for "everybody", like most of the big dogs in animation try to do these days (even if many people still write the medium off as kids' stuff), but I think the comedy just wasn't quite up to snuff most of the time. It manages to be smile inducing, just not laugh out loud funny or extremely memorable. When all is said and done, I can't give "Free Birds" a hard recommendation, but I can say that, on the whole, it is completely benign. There are worse ways to spend an afternoon. Then again, I saw it at the Drafthouse, albeit in one of Lakeline's tiniest theaters, with a coke and one of their unbelievable pizzas. I'm sure that makes anything more enjoyable. But, yeah, I'd say go see this one if you enjoy most animated films, even if they don't have the impact of a PIXAR movie or a Despicable me, or the laughs of Shrek 2 or Madagascar. It's a cute diversion.

But, what you movie studios really need to do is give us that big Thanksgiving movie we've always clamored for! Picture this: It's the 1600's, and the first Thanksgiving is approaching. Which pilgrim is given the job of setting things up and getting the turkey for the big feast? Ty Burrell as a screwball single dad trying to get everything perfect for what is sure to be a major holiday celebrated by generations to come! It's Christmas Vacation, but in Pigrim days, and also it's not Christmas, it's Thanksgiving. Also, he as he is working with the "Indians" on the big feast, he falls in love with the Chief's really hot daughter in the process (that's required in any movie involving Native Americans, but it's also really cute for this story idea). It's brilliant! Agree or not, it would be a huge hit! Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!  

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