We as a viewing public have been mostly pretty spoiled up to this point as recent kids film offerings in the past few years from the likes of Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks and Blue Sky have raised the bar pretty damn high with stories that delight all ages when in reality something that won’t be insulting will fit the bill for the younger set. “Free Birds” is a goofy Thanksgiving tale that delights the kids and has just enough going for it to not bore the tears out of the adults that take them.
Two turkeys from opposite sides of the tracks one pardoned by the president in a Thanksgiving tradition and the other with somewhat of a nebulous back story (Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson) must put aside their differences and team up to travel back in time to change the course of history and get turkey off the holiday menu for good.
High art this is not, but good dumb fun for the kids that will actually make an adult or two in the audience release a genuine laugh? Actually yeah, as co-writer/director Jimmy Hayward comes from the Pixar school of animation and assembles a basic but solid story that never really drags and just the right kind of weird keeping the fun going with the help of co-writer and producer Scott Mosier of “Clerks” fame. The animation is solid despite the use of 3D being a little substandard and lame, it moves at a brisk pace and while not all of the zingers, puns and sight gags hit as well as you would hope it does just enough to keep the audience engaged. It’s got some plot holes that you drive a truck through but once you get past the thread bare first act that is simply designed to get our heroic turkeys together, it ends up being a fun little ride thanks in large part to some decent writing and a loaded ensemble voice cast the work the occasionally thin material to maximum effect.
A veteran of voice work and animation, Owen Wilson as the unlikely hero Reggie can play this kind of part in his sleep as he exudes a likeable charm that works in a part like this. To his credit, I didn’t even realize that it was Woody Harrelson who was playing the role of Jake, but he is a veteran and played the blowhard heroic type with ease and it worked well opposite Wilson’s Reggie. The always great Amy Poehler was fine as Jenny, the unexpected love interest for Reggie while the likes of George Takei, Colm Meaney, Keith David and Dan Fogler got some moments to get a few jokes off and shine.
Will “Free Birds” remembered in the annals of animated cinema as one of the best children’s films of all time?…absolutely not. But when you are taking the kids to the movies, your primary goal is just to find something you’ll have fun with and this film delivers that in just the right places that adults won’t have to zone out while watching it.
3 out of 5 stars.
“Free Birds” opens tomorrow in theatres all across Canada, please check with your local listings for show times.
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