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FREE BIRDS: 2 ½ STARS. “will kids gobble up the pro-Tofurky message?”

Free-Birds-Trailer-8“Thanksgiving is a turkey’s worst nightmare.” So says Reggie (voice of Owen Wilson), an outcast turkey who has never been part of the flock.

This year, however, Reggie has much to be thankful for. On the eve of Thanksgiving he is pardoned by the president, and taken to Camp David where he leads a life of luxury, watching TV and ordering in pizzas.

Reggie is in turkey heaven until a wild turkey named Jake (Woody Harrelson), the leader (and only member), of the Turkey Freedom Front, kidnaps him, babbling a wild story about the Great Turkey and a magic doorknob. Jake’s plan is to use a top secret egg shaped time machine to travel back to Plymouth Colony in 1621, just days before the first Thanksgiving, and take turkey off the menu.

PETA will likely approve of “Free Birds” pro-Tofurky message (and just in time for American Thanksgiving) but will the kids gobble up “Free Birds”?

They’ll probably enjoy the turkey characters and the cute little fuzzball chicks are guaranteed to make little voices go “Ahhhh,” but story wise “Free Birds” is as dry as Aunt Mable’s overdone turkey. There are good lessons about being part of the flock and learning about confidence, but the story feels drawn out to feature length.

The voice work is solid. Harrelson, Wilson and Amy Poehler do confident work, and George Takei amps it up as the voice of the time machine, but despite the headline voices, many of the jokes fall flat, plucked of the impact by long awkward “Family Guy” style pauses that don’t work as well for an audience full of kids as they do for adults.

Compared to many recent animated kid’s films—or even Angry Birds for that matter—“Free Birds” feels average, like a flightless bird trying to soar with the Pixars of the genre.

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