Animated family comedy with the voices of Woody Harrelson, Owen Wilson, and Amy Poehler. Directed by Jimmy Hayward.
FILM SYNOPSIS: Two turkeys from opposite sides of the tracks join forces and travel back through time in order to get their species off people's plates at Thanksgiving.
PREVIEW REVIEW: Before we begin, I must confess that while I write my critique I will be taking breaks to enjoy a turkey salad sandwich. This bit of revenge only seems fair for having to endure that foul film.
Everyone involved in this animated production has proven himself or herself to be professional in past productions, but a cast and crew needs a well-prepared script they can sink their teeth into. Alas, this one is as flavorful as a bowl of cold giblets. The poor script was not the only disappointment. Once again, a subversive filmmaker has peppered his endeavor with negative statements about our nation’s first white settlers.
Here military officer and pilgrim guide Myles Standish is seen as a mustache-twirling villain. * (See historical notes about Myles Standish at end of this skewering, I mean, this review.) The pilgrims themselves are pictured as soulless cowards. Really, Mr. Filmmaker, you want to call our pioneers cowards?
What’s the deal with recent moviemakers depicting our founders and pioneers as buffoons? What’s the agenda here? These filmmakers seem to delight in exposing the faults of those who have gone before us, while ignoring the ideals they built this land upon. Whatever else can be said of them, cowardice can’t honestly be applied to those who explored and tamed a prairie that would eventually signal hope to others. But respect and balance have little place in Hollywood historical recreations these days.
“Well, it wasn’t so balanced for the black man back then.” True, evil constantly manifests itself, even in America. But while the African-American fought against injustice, he was aided by other races who not only realized this evil, but gave of their own blood to end it.
“Well, look at the white man’s other wrongdoings.” Each race produces good and bad men. Evil needs to be exposed, for sure. But many a good man has determined that America would be a land of opportunity for future generations. Every day America’s hearts and hands reach out to those in need, here and afar. But I don’t see films referencing America’s accomplishments or benevolence, just its failings. Why is that?
It further frustrates me that a film is made about Thanksgiving, only to get the usual Hollywood holiday treatment. The philosophy in Free Birds is that it’s a season to appreciate loved ones and friends. No problem with that, but once again, we have a film about Thanksgiving where God is not mentioned, or the one being thanked.
Perhaps I’m being over-sensitive. After all, it is a film about time-traveling turkeys. Probably shouldn’t take this premise too seriously. But that leaves us with the examination of the production’s entertainment value. About the only charity I can muster on its behalf is the belief that it is a film best appreciated by adults and children who have never seen a film. The first time we saw a movie, the movement on screen was enough to satisfy. There is movement in this film.
I’m certain I won’t be the only critic who writes this, but I can’t resist: as the title suggests, this turkey is for the…oh, you know the rest.
*Notes about Myles Standish: He was hired by the Pilgrims as military advisor for Plymouth Colony. As one of the Mayflower passengers, Standish played a leading role in the administration and defense of Plymouth Colony from its inception. He was elected by the Plymouth Colony militia as its first commander and continued to be re-elected to that position for the remainder of his life. Standish served as an agent of Plymouth Colony in England, as assistant governor, and as treasurer of Plymouth Colony. He was also one of the first settlers and founders of the town of Duxbury, Massachusetts.
A defining characteristic of Standish's military leadership was his proclivity for preemptive action which resulted in at least two attacks (or small skirmishes) on different groups of Native Americans—the Nemasket raid and the Wessagusset massacre. During these actions, Standish exhibited considerable courage and skill as a soldier, but also demonstrated a brutality that angered Native Americans and disturbed more moderate members of the colony.
Although he supported and defended the Pilgrim Colony for much of his life, there is no evidence to suggest that Standish ever joined their church. However, Standish was one of the forty-one signers of the Mayflower Compact, which states the colony's purpose was to advance the Christian faith for the glory of God.