Friday 29 November 2013

Review: Free Birds

World of Blackout Film Review

Free Birds Poster

Free Birds (2D) (SPOILERS! …I suppose)
Cert: U / 91 mins / Dir. Jimmy Hayward

Hmmm. If your own publicity machine is going lay first claim on the phrase "turkey movie", you should probably make sure that the knowing irony you're intending it to be read with is justified, otherwise Monday morning's meeting is going to be quite embarrassing when the Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes aggregate scores*1 become the elephant in the room.

Free Birds takes a passable enough premise (two turkeys - one free-range, one battery-farmed - steal a government time-machine to travel back to the first Thanksgiving and prevent the tradition of turkey-eating at the source), and for the most part, wastes it. For the first half of the movie, the script is lifeless and a lot of the gags (visual and scripted) just don't work. Things pick up in the remaining run-time, but it's really too late by then. There's a nice time-travel riff at one point, but it's over-telegraphed to begin with, and then over-explained; I know the movie's aimed at a young audience, but there's really no need to patronise them to this extent.

Elsewhere there are references to Mork & Mindy, Back To The Future, Star Wars and Indiana Jones, executed with varying levels of success. It's not that it's ever "a bad film", but it feels half-arsed. When the screenplay is setting up the time-travel riff, mentioned above, there's also the potential for another extension of it, more along the lines of Looper. Sadly this doesn't happen, and the wasted opportunity to get the younger audience members thinking and introduce some re-watch value is emblematic of the whole film (unless they're going to save that plot-thread for a sequel, of course). There's also the niggle that by altering the historic timeline, however amusing it looks on paper, the characters in the film end up in a version of the world which clearly isn't this one. It might have been a nice destination for the film, to give kids an alternative, fantastical spin on history. Alas, that wasn't to be.

And yet, towering above all of these gripes, for me at least, is the casting. There's no dynamic between the leads of Reggie (Owen Wilson) and Jake (Woody Harrelson). They may as well have read their lines on different days and had them edited together; then again, the script doesn't give them much to play with either. To make matters worse, if you're casting the parts of Big Red Stupid Bird and Small Blue Smart Bird, why would you choose two actors who sound almost identical? It's the animation equivalent of a mismatched-buddy-cop movie starring Mel Gibson and Kevin Costner.

Free Birds is a nice idea, thoroughly underdeveloped. Audiences deserve better, and luckily they probably won't have to wait too long to get it.

Is the trailer representative of the film?

Did I laugh, cry, gasp and sigh when I was supposed to?
Not as much as I wanted to.

Does it achieve what it sets out to do?
For a UK audience, no. Even for a US audience it's doubful..

Pay at the cinema, Rent on DVD or just wait for it to be on the telly?
DVD at best.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Will I watch it again?
I shouldn't imagine so.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream?
There isn't.

And because you won't be happy until I've given it a score...

*1 38% and 19% respectively, at the time of writing. Ouch.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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