Free Birds is a 2013 American 3D computer-animated buddy comedy film about two turkeys travelling back in time to prevent Thanksgiving. It was produced by Reel FX Creative Studios as its first theatrical fully animated feature film. Jimmy Hayward directed the film, which he also co-wrote with Scott Mosier, the film's producer. The film stars the voices of Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson and Amy Poehler with supporting roles done by George Takei, Colm Meaney, Keith David, and Dan Fogler. Originally titled Turkeys, and scheduled for release in 2014, the film was released on November 1, 2013 by Relativity Media.
Reggie the turkey has always been afraid of Thanksgiving because turkeys have always been on the menu, but his attempts to warn his farm-based flock constantly fall on deaf ears and has made him an outcast. When the other turkeys finally realize what is going on, they thoughtlessly throw Reggie outside in an attempt to save themselves, instead of listening to his escape plan. In a surprise twist of fate, he winds up being named the "pardoned turkey" by the President of the United States and is subsequently taken to Camp David. Although initially hesitant, Reggie soon eases into a routine of doing nothing but enjoying pizza delivered to him by the "Pizza Dude" and watching Mexican telenovelas.
He gets bag-kidnapped by Jake, a member of the Turkey Freedom Front who tells him that a "Great Turkey" told him to find Reggie and take him back to the first Thanksgiving with him to take turkeys off the menu once and for all. They then infiltrate the base where a time machine is located. Despite interference by federal officials and an attempt by Reggie to trick him back to the surface, Jake manages to commandeer an egg-shaped time machine with an A.I. software named S.T.E.V.E (Space Time Exploration Vehicle Envoy). Jake instructs S.T.E.V.E. to time-travel back to the same day in 1621, three days before the first Thanksgiving. Once there, they are ambushed by colonial hunters led by Myles Standish, but they are quickly rescued by native turkeys led by Chief Broadbeak and his two children, Ranger and Jenny.
Broadbeak explains that the turkeys in the area have been forced underground since the settlers came and that they cannot risk fighting back without the settlers taking them. The next day, Broadbeak orders Jake with Ranger to spy on the settlers and Reggie with Jenny to spring all the hunting traps the humans set up. Despite initial hostility, Ranger and Jake find out that the settlers have already begun preparations for Thanksgiving and where they keep their weapons. Meanwhile, Jenny believes in Reggie for lying about being from the future and is impressed with his accidental unorthodox way of springing the traps. However, they are soon intercepted by Standish and Reggie is forced to get her in orbit over the planet aboard S.T.E.V.E., validating everything he said in the process. Reggie asks Jenny to go back to the future with him once everything blows over, but she refuses to leave the flock no matter how much she likes him. Jake then drags Reggie away and tells him he has a plan to attack the settlers. However, Reggie has gotten sick of all his improbable stories and threatens to leave.
Desperate, Jake tells him that this trip was more about him making up for his failure to save turkey eggs while escaping a turkey-fattening facility when he was young, maintaining that the Great Turkey convinced him to go through with this. While still reluctant to believe what he said, Reggie still goes along with the plan. They manage to use gunpowder to destroy the weapons shack, but Jake inadvertently leaves a gunpowder trail back to the tree the turkeys are hiding under. Standish and his men flush the turkeys out from underground, capturing enough for the feast. Broadbeak sacrifices his life to get the remaining turkeys into the tide pool. Afterward, Reggie returns home, where he discovers from S.T.E.V.E. that he is the Great Turkey. Jenny is sworn in as the new chief and orders the remaining turkeys to prepare an attack on the settlers.
Jenny, Jake and Ranger lead the turkeys in an attack on the settlement just as Chief Massasoit and his tribe of Indians arrive. Inspired, Reggie goes back in time to stop the attack, inadvertently trapping Standish in the time stream. Through S.T.E.V.E. and the Pizza Dude, Reggie convinces the settlers and the Indians that pizza is a more acceptable food than turkeys, taking them off the Thanksgiving menu entirely. Reggie stays with Jenny while Jake takes S.T.E.V.E. in order to look for new adventures.
In the mid-credits, Jake returns moments after leaving Reggie and Jenny. With a chicken and duck in his wings, Jake begins telling every turkey present about the turducken, implicating that Standish's erasure from history has thrown the future out of whack.
- It copies elements from Chicken Run.
- Reggie, the main protagonist, is extremely unlikable.
- At first Reggie was at least a tolerable character at the beginning of the movie when he tried to warn the other turkeys about Thanksgiving, but soon be became a really big jerk to Jake after Chief Broadbeak's death.
- Myles Standish is completely weak as a villain.
- Misleading title: While this movie is being called Free Birds, it's barely a turkey movie!
- Obvious product placement like Old Navy and Chuck E. Cheese's.
- Speaking of Chuck E. Cheese's, pizza from there is delivered to Reggie, despite Chuck E. Cheese's not delivering food until 2018, five years later after this movie's release.
- There are a lot of butt shots and sexual innuendos that don't even deserve to be in the film at all such as using the "F" Word (which they refer to as fight).
- Pointless running gag where Jenny's eye pupil goes numb.
- An extremely poor ending with a ridiculous plot twist is extremely dumb, as the problem of turkeys being eaten for Thanksgiving is solved with replacing turkeys with... pizza.
- Speaking of that, the first Thanksgiving took place in 1621. However, pizza did not yet exist until 1889, 268 years after the first Thanksgiving, making the ending very pointless.
- The idea of two turkeys traveling back in time to stop the first Thanksgiving is unique and interesting, but was executed horribly.
- Pretty good animation.
- The voice acting is pretty good.
- Some jokes are funny, like Jake and Ranger dancing together, and the way Reggie screams at the opening.
- The time traveling effects are impressive.
- Chief Broadbeak's death is somewhat emotional.
- The characters are decent enough and do have some good character development, even Reggie.
- Jake, Jenny, S.T.E.V.E, Chief Broadbeak and Ranger are likable characters.
- Decent soundtrack from Dominic Lewis.
Free Birds received generally negative reviews from critics, though mixed-to-negative reviews from audiences. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 20% approval rating with an average rating of 4.27/10 based on 89 reviews. The site's consensus reads: "Technically proficient yet creatively moribund, Free Birds begs unfortunate comparisons with the dim-witted fowl that inspired it.". Another review aggregator, Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 top reviews from mainstream critics, calculated a score of 38 based on 27 reviews, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".