Written By Jimmy Hayward and Scott Mosier
Composed By Dominic Lewis
Produced By Scott Mosier
Edited By Chris Cartagena
Directed By Jimmy Hayward
'Free Birds' is actually the first animated feature to be created by Reel FX: before this, they mostly did spin-off works like shorts or theme park rides that are based on other big animated films and cartoons like the Looney Tunes, Ice Age, The Simpsons, Despicable Me and more...but now that they decided to play with the big boys with their own original property as we celebrate the day that can only be described as a turkey's worst nightmare, will it be a movie we will all be thankful for or should we go back in time to get this off the menu? Let's find out, this is 'Free Birds'!
FREE BIRDS: Pardoned by the president, a lucky turkey named Reggie gets to live a carefree lifestyle until fellow fowl Jake recruits him for a history-changing mission as they travel back in time to the year 1621 just before the first Thanksgiving...the plan: prevent all turkeys from ever becoming holiday dinners. Unfortunately, the two birds encounter colonist Myles Standish who is out to capture feathered friends for all the hungry Pilgrims.
Now I know that right off the bat, the entire idea is ridiculous-I mean, we are talking about time-traveling turkeys trying to take out Thanksgiving...try saying that ten times fast! But believe it or not other than that, there's nothing much to it since there's no sense of an actual plot that's driving this movie other than the Thanksgiving mission which is a big problem because the film seems to confuse a plot with a goal: the goal is what gives the characters purpose to do something and the plot is everything they do to get to that goal. Of course they do things to stop Thanksgiving, but they're unrelated with the story...it's literally filled with random gags and a uselessly thrown in romance subplot between Reggie and Jenny, but the worst part would be the ending which can almost ruin the entire film: I don't want to spoil anything just in case, but let's just say that time-traveling turkeys aren't the stupidest thing in this movie. However, there are a few points I have to give them for: I'll admit that there are times when the humor caught me off-guard and it's actually funny...it's mostly dumb Looney Tunes slapstick and there are some pretty bad ones, but there are also some that did make me laugh plus the fact that it does help with the movie's ridiculous nature feeling like they know their concept is stupid so they'll play around that. Another thing I liked is the concept of how the turkeys live during the seventeenth century: it seems interesting how they would live underground as a native tribe. Other than that though, there are some things happening in the movie...but they don't seem to form a story.
I'm always interested to see some new talent and show me what they got with their animation...but unfortunately for Reel FX, it shows that it's a subpar animation studio: the only way I could describe it is that it's cheap and generic-like, the design doesn't leave anything new to the imagination. After watching it for a while, it feels like all the turkeys look the same but with a minor difference and the places they go to don't look that appealing to be in...it doesn't help either that the forests and the background animation looks poorly made with fake looking trees and a colorless atmosphere, it's even worse that even the characters mostly have a dull color scheme on them like brown and grey. The character animation is decent in itself, but it should have gone into a more cartoony route with it like 'Madagascar' to fit more with the silly premise. Honestly other than that, I couldn't think of anything else to say about the animation and that's the sad part of it: often animated films would have one element or one scene with their animation that really stands out and makes the movie memorable, but they haven't done anything special with it at all and just makes it pretty dull to look at the whole way through. It's weird considering that their other works are sometimes visually exciting, but that's not the case with this film.
It's a little weird describing the characters, they're actually pretty well written themselves but it wasn't executed as well: let's start off with Reggie, a lonely turkey who wants to find his place...it's interesting to see how he finds it by either being alone or to be with Jenny, but that only happens at a few points in the movie the rest of the time, it just feels like he's just there to help out on the mission...same thing can be said about Jake: he's a pretty well-developed character with an interesting backstory about his determination to stop Thanksgiving...but most of the time, he's just butting heads with Ranger to show who's got the biggest balls between the two just to fill the movie with slapstick humor. There's Jenny who's more of a love interest to Reggie, but she does show that she could be more than that by being a strong member of her tribe as the daughter of the chief...and then there's Myles Standish, the man who goes out hunting for turkeys for his hungry town bounty hunter-style: he's okay as a villain, not really intimidating but still has a threatening nature and you know there will be trouble when you see him on screen...not the best villain I've seen but decent enough to pass. As for the rest, they're completely irrelevant to the movie since the grand majority of them are just passed on as comedy reliefs giving out nothing to the plot nor give out anything memorable about them although I will say that some of them are pretty funny and the ones who do have a bit of a point to the plot only have a few minutes of screen time just to never be heard from again. I can't say that some of these characters are bad-in fact, they're actually pretty good...they're just not handled well.
I may have enjoyed this movie back when it first came out...but looking back on it now after a few years, I should have known that this was a dumb movie just by its premise alone. I could honestly see where this film could have been a great comedy, but 'Free Birds' is just a poorly executed movie where even though it can give out some good laughs, it doesn't make up for its empty story, weak animation, bad use of good characters and a horrible ending. If I have to do a recommendation for this, I say just wait until you can rent it for Thanksgiving...not to actually watch it though, but just to put it on television while the whole family's around as background noise and to distract the kids at the same time. I can't believe I have to do this on such a special occasion and this film was actually so close from escaping it too, but 'Free Birds' unfortunately earns a rating of a 4 out of 10...it's honestly sad when Disney was the only animation studio that made something we were all thankful for that year.