Free Birds Blu-ray Review
Reggie loves the holidays: Christmas, Easter, you name it…well, except for Thanksgiving. Being a turkey, he hates Thanksgiving (much in the same way a talking can of cranberry sauce would hate it). And for years, he’s been dodging being one of the chosen many that wind up in the oven every fourth Thursday in November.
For no clear reason, Reggie (Owen Wilson, who voiced Lightning McQueen in CARS and CARS 2) winds up being pardoned by none other than the President of the United States and flown to Camp David to, um, share a bedroom with POTUS’ daughter. But it’s not long before he’s kidnapped by Jake (Woody Harrelson, who lent his vocals to a strange little Norwegian movie called FREE JIMMY), the head of the Turkey Liberation Front. The TLF’s mission? To make sure their kind is taken off the annual menu forever.
And so Reggie and Jake hop into a time machine and travel back to 1621, where they encounter a rafter of pacifist turkeys—led by Chief Broadbeak (Keith David, who won an Emmy for his voiceover work in Ken Burns’ THE WAR)—trying to dodge Myles Standish (STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION and DEEP SPACE NICE alum Colm Meaney) and the rest of the pilgrims by living underground. (Broadbeak’s daughter, Jenny—voiced by Amy Poehler, whose voice has been featured prominently in the ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS trilogy and HORTON HEARS A WHO!—serves as Reggie’s essential love interest.)
And so the movie is suddenly not about what it’s supposed to be about. Instead, it’s about Reggie getting in the way of Broadbeak’s plans and proving that maybe he is a worthy companion to stuffing. Reggie seems like a decent enough turkey, but since he’s risking the lives of so many strangers, there’s really no reason to root for him. The same goes for Jake, who’s supposed to be a likeable sidekick but is really a manipulator at heart.
FREE BIRDS is directed by Pixar animator Jimmy Hayward, who co-wrote the screenplay with Scott Mosier. Having worked on the first two TOY STORYs and MONSTERS INC., as well as directing HORTON HEARS A WHO!, Hayward is no stranger as to what makes an enjoyable animated feature. The movie’s animation (by Reel FX Creative Studios, which contributed to 2007’s TMNT, 2013’s ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH and others) is solid and consistent—which is to be expected nearly 20 years after the first feature-length computer-animated movie hit theaters—but it’s simply no fun.
Assuming they could make sense of the script, Wilson, Harrelson and Poehler must have had a blast recording their voices. But the audience is left with dumb characters making dumb decisions with nothing to back them up. It makes sense that the turkeys don’t want their kind devoured every year, but then what’s the alternative? Shouldn’t they spend their time planting another animals (pigs? armadillos?) in front of the pilgrims for them to snack on?
Kids may not pick up on the illogicalities, but they also won’t be fooled into what appears to be the main purpose of the movie: asking mom for a vegetarian option.
FREE BIRDS BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 1.85:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. As is expected with all computer-animated films, FREE BIRDS looks stunning in high-definition. All of the colors (especially the reds and blues on the turkeys) pop, while the darker shades (on the pilgrims and in night scenes) show depth.
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Subtitles in English and Spanish. This Blu-ray also boasts a very nice audio transfer, with clear dialogue and effective soundtrack.
Birds Flipping History (1:27): Children put on a short Thanksgiving play, complete with pilgrims, turkey and pizza.
Animating the Free Birds: The Main Course (4:36): Director Jimmy Hayward and a handful of the animators discuss the “Pants Off Dance-Off” dance number.
Winging It: Animators in Action (4:32) shows some of the team shooting animation references that they could use to create more lively characters and scenes.
Talking Turkey with Composer Dominic Lewis (6:23): Composer Lewis and Music Relativity Media president Bob Bowen discuss how the former got to “let loose” with his work.
Shake a Tail Feather (0:24) is a brief music-centric teaser for FREE BIRDS.