“Free Birds” is more proof that Hollywood has almost killed the animated goose that laid the golden egg.
No matter that in this case, the goose is a turkey.
A start-up division called Reflex Animation did “Free Birds.” Relativity is releasing it. They make the same mistakes that generations of animators made before them, having a cute idea and a feeble script to go with it, lining up a “name” voice cast to over-compensate.
Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Amy Poehler and George Takei — funny folks, one and all. Yet there's barely a laugh in it.
Wilson voices Reggie, a scrawny Jeremiah at his turkey farm, the one guy to figure out why he and his flock are being fattened up.
But Reggie is that lucky bird who wins a presidential pardon.
Reggie has barely settled into a pampered life of pizzas and TV watching at Camp David when the demented Jake (Harrelson) shows up to birdnap him and enlist Reggie in his mission — to steal the secret Camp David time machine, travel back to early America and change Thanksgiving history, “to get turkey OFF the menu.”
In 1621 Plymouth, the Pilgrims are starving . Myles Standish (Colm Meaney) is a trigger-happy menace who figures he can turkey-hunt the colony to safety.
Jake and Reggie must win over the native flock (Poehler and Keith David among them) to save them and turkeys of the future.
The few gags there are seem borrowed from better, earlier films — short attention span turkeys inspired by Dory of “Finding Nemo,” “Braveheart” battle scenes, mismatched “buddies” from a hundred better buddy comedies.
The odd throw-away line works. But the sight gags fall flat and much of the screenplay seems like a rough draft that the filmmakers expected the actors to fix.
And they didn't.
Frozen, under-cooked and sorely lacking much in the way of “all the trimmings,” this turkey isn't ready to serve.
* * * * *
Director: Jimmy Hayward
Cast: Voices of Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Amy Poehler, Keith David, Colm Meaney
Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes
Rating: PG for some action / peril and rude humor
Theaters: Twin Creek, Village Pointe, Majestic, Aksarben, Oakview, Bluffs 17, Westroads, Regal