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Article by Teddy Durgin

Durgin Cries Fowl Over Free Birds

Full disclosure right up front, dear readers. I love Thanksgiving! I flat-out love it. It's my favorite holiday. I love everything about it. The fact that it's always on a Thursday, that it's part of a four-day weekend, that it officially kicks off the Christmas season each year. I love the Macy's parade. I love the football games. I love the family traditions - new and old. I love that you don't have to give anyone gifts. And, as Americans, I love that we can all share in it together. Most of all? I love the TURKEY! Oh, yes, indeed. Wonderful, yummy, fresh-baked, basted, gamey, tender, newly slaughtered turkey! I look at that bird every year on the platter and the first thing I say is, "That thang was alive just a few days ago!" Hell, I'm eating some turkey right now while I'm writing this. So, you might say I was genetically pre-disposed to roast a movie like "Free Birds," in which two turkeys named Reggie (voice of Owen Wilson) and Jake (voice of Woody Harrelson) travel back in time to stop the first Thanksgiving and change the menu of everyone's favorite November holiday forever. Indeed, to that I say... GET THE FLOCK OUTTA HERE WITH THAT NONSENSE! Fortunately for me as a reputable critic (cue the laugh track), this is also a lame movie on its own terms that will be fairly easy to carve up. The film's chief failure is it doesn't convince the viewer that the protagonists - the turkeys - are right. I mean, come on! Even if they stop turkeys from being the main course on the annual Thanksgiving menu, that doesn't stop their kind from making it onto menus period. Pardon my inner Bubba Blue coming out, but there's still turkey sandwiches, turkey burgers, turkey chili, turkey soup, turkey loaves, turkey pot pie, turkey sausage, turkey bacon and so forth. Second... uh, here's a little factoid for ya. Turkey was only a part of the first Thanksgiving. Also served was venison, fish and even lobster. If the turkeys really wanted to stop their annual slaughter, they should have gone back to 1863 and prevented Abraham Lincoln from first proclaiming it a national holiday. That's right. They should have beat John Wilkes Booth to the theater by two years! Third, I thought Reggie, Jake and the other turkeys in "Free Birds" were WAY too smart. Now, of course, I buy in animated movies that animals, critters and even inanimate objects can often talk, act and react like human beings. But there have to be limits and rules. The great thing about, say, the "Toy Story" characters was they were smart within their own little world. The same held true for the "Madagascar" animals. In both series of films, the characters met with real danger and confusion when thrust out into the scary real world just beyond their boundaries and confines. Jake, Reggie and the others are unbelievably intelligent. They can order pizzas, operate TV remote controls, form underground societies and mount military campaigns. But how? In cutaways to the humans, it's clear they can only hear them going gobble, gobble, gobble. How does the pizza man understand them? Also, how does the voice-activated time machine understand Reggie and Jake's commands? Yes, the two main birds climb in a secret government time vehicle hidden at Camp David (Reggie is the turkey the U.S. President "pardons" just prior to the holiday). So, are we to believe that the federal government has invented a time machine AND programmed it to understand the language of... poultry?! The feds can't even get the website to work properly! So, to recap, at no time in the movie was I on the side of the main bird characters (the human Pilgrims are, of course, portrayed as ugly, unkempt, uncaring, blood-thirsty hunters). And at no time did I logically believe this movie. Yup, you guessed it, folks. This one's a turkey!

"Free Birds" is rated PG for some action peril and mild rude humor.


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