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Free Birds (2013) - Movie Review for Parents

About.com Rating 3 Star Rating

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Bottom line: Free Birds delivers an animated comedy that lacks real flavor but is still fun and festive for families.

MPAA Rating: PG, for some action/peril and rude humor
Guide age recommendation: 5+
Genre: Animated/Comedy
Runtime: Approx. 84 min.
Starring: Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson Amy Poehler, Dan Fogler
Release Date: November 1, 2013 (3D/2D)

Free Birds - Overview

Reggie the turkey lives on a farm. But somehow, he's the only turkey who knows what's up. He tries to warn the other turkeys what fate holds for them, but he is only ridiculed. So, when Reggie becomes the blessed pardoned turkey for the year, he happily trots off to Camp David to enjoy a comfy life of eating pizza and watching TV.

Suddenly, his cushy new life is interrupted when he is practically abducted by an often dimwitted but highly determined turkey named Jake. Their mission, Jake declares, is to travel back in time to the first Thanksgiving and get turkeys off the menu for good.

By the time Reggie realizes Jake is telling the truth, there's no way out. The two turkeys do travel back in time and meet a native tribe of wild turkeys who are busy outwitting the humans and thwarting their efforts to procure a filling turkey dinner. Jake and Reggie meet the lovely Jenny and her father the chief, and they try to help change the main course of history. But will their meddling in the past do more harm than good?

Free Birds - Guide Review for Parents

There aren't many films to choose from if you're looking for a Thanksgiving themed movie, so this movie has that going for it. However, Free Birds fails to fully capitalize on what could have been an incredibly rich setting and historical adventure. Underwhelming animation and a shallow storyline keep this movie from being a future classic, but the movie does have some comical moments and a fun premise.

Kids will likely enjoy the brightly colored animation and the comical turkey antics. The turkeys do use some rude words like "idiot" and "stupid" that kids might imitate, though. Also, very young children may be frightened by one scene in which the turkeys find themselves in a fiery peril and one good character dies (the actual death is not seen).

While the movie fails to deliver any great historical moments or interesting themes, there are a couple of good overall messages about determination, perseverance and friendship. For more details on the content of the movie, please see the overview below.

Free Birds - Content Overview

*May contain spoilers.
  • Violence (Medium): Scenes of hunters going after turkeys with dogs and weapons are shown. A couple of purposely set explosions and fires occur. A couple of turkeys slap or hit each other.
  • Scary Scenes (Medium): Some young children may be frightened by scenes depicting the turkeys being hunted or in one scene when the turkeys are trying to escape a fire.
  • Sex/Nudity (Low): A few jokes with mild innuendo are made. Two turkeys kiss.
  • Drugs and Alcohol (None)
  • Language (Low): Several rude words like "idiot" and "stupid" are used.
  • Disrespectful/Imitative Behavior (High): Turkeys use some rude words and mild insults. A group of turkeys treat one turkey as an outsider and constantly make him feel left out and alone. A turkey loves to do nothing but watch TV and eat loads of pizza. Some kids may want to imitate the hunters who hunt the turkeys and set all kinds of traps for them.
  • Sad/Unsettling Scenes (Medium): One turkey's father dies. We do not see the actual death occur, but we do see his final moments and the resulting sorrow of his friends and family. Being told from the turkeys' point of view, the movie focuses on the eventual fate of the birds, so some children may be disturbed by the idea that humans raise turkeys to kill and eat them. A turkey being raised in a factory with cages must leave his family to escape.
  • Movie Topics Kids Might Have Questions About: Thanksgiving, history, eating animals, killing turkeys for food, the presidential turkey pardon, farm and factory raised food.

Free Birds - Blu-ray

Free Birds is now available on Blu-ray and DVD. The Blu-ray includes several bonus features that highlight the animation process and making of the movie. Kids will especially like watching the animators as they act our their reference material and try to find ways to make the movie funny and the characters genuine. For kids who are interested in animation or filmmaking, these kinds of features are golden.

Another feature called "Birds Flipping History" shows a school play where kids are acting out the Free Birds version of the Thanksgiving story. While this feature is short and not all that interesting, what could be interesting is using the feature to spark a discussion with kids about time travel and what might really happen if history was changed, or how history might have played out differently if certain events happened in different ways. Get kids' creative juices flowing as they re-imagine history themselves.

 

Disclosure: The studio provided a free screening of this movie for review purposes. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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