Review By JESSICA ALMY
With high hopes, kiddo and I went to the theater to see the new animated family flick “Free Birds” on opening day last Friday. We knew from the previews that it would be funny, and sure enough, that’s what attracted the family we befriended while waiting for the movie to begin. But I had questions: Would the turkeys prevail in their quest to get turkey off the Thanksgiving menu? And if so, would their victory get turkey off the menus of the families who flocked to see the movie?
The answers: Yes, and probably not.
In short, the plot revolves around two modern-day turkeys traveling back in time to the first Thanksgiving to prevent the Pilgrims from hunting their wild ancestors. After a couple plot twists, they succeed, and the first Thanksgiving is celebrated with pizza, not turkey.
Still, I don’t have much faith that this movie will convince kids and parents to skip the bird this holiday. On the plus side, the movie does offer criticism of both free-range and confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs, or “factory farms”), going so far as to depict turkeys piled on top of each other in a large industrial facility. Wild turkeys are also depicted as being smart and resourceful, albeit anthropomorphized.
On the flip side, modern-day domesticated turkeys are characterized as just plain stupid — so stupid, in fact that they welcome being selected for slaughter because they think the farmer is bringing them to “turkey paradise.” This, in my mind, offers parents a convenient out if their kids ask why a bird continues to be part of the holiday tradition.
The truth is, vegetarian and vegan kids will probably love this movie, as my daughter did. For them, it provides a new story about Thanksgiving and a cool, fun dish to serve as the focus of the meal: pizza. But this is mainstream Hollywood, and while the movie is good, it’s not revolutionary.
Ages 6 to adult.
jk // Nov 8, 2013 at 11:57 am
Thanks for the review. We’re thinking about seeing it this weekend. Is it scary? You did answer one question I had. I was worried the turkey would ve replaced on the menu with another animal. Good to see that it was replaced with every kids favorite food.
Jessica // Nov 12, 2013 at 11:38 am
Oh no – jk – I’m afraid I did not answer your question in time. Yes, it’s a little scary. My 8-year-old was fine, but younger kids might be disturbed by the chase scenes or when the turkeys’ home is set on fire.
Heather // Nov 14, 2013 at 12:38 am
Glad to see this review as you’ve answered our main questions about the movie. 🙂
Jen // Nov 23, 2013 at 8:34 pm
I thought the scariest part was actually the time travel! I was gobsmacked by the cleanliness of the factory farm facility, and the idea that a man in a lab coat came by to check on how the turkeys were doing! While I liked the messaging of the movie I think the forest [the message] got lost for the trees [the individual turkey characters]. Thanks for the review!
Jenn Kali // Nov 22, 2014 at 7:39 pm
Watched this last night with my five year old. What a strange movie. She kept asking me to explain what was going on and I couldn’t. The story is very weird and hard to follow. She thought the hunting scenes were very scary and kept asking for reassurance that no one would die. But then the chief turkey and father of one of the ma in characters does die!
So I’m not sure we’ll watchat it again. BUT there were some nice parts. At the end she said “Don’t you wish that story was true and people didn’t eat turkeys for Thanksgiving?” We then had a conversation about free range and factory farms prompted by scenes in the movie. And we had a discussion about how the wild turkeys were so smart but the farmed turkeys were not at all because they are bored and understimulated. So it promped some nice discuscions in our home even though it’s a terrible movie. Thanks for your review.
Jessica // Nov 23, 2014 at 4:43 pm
Indeed, it’s a strange one!