Cinema Review: Free Birds



DIR: Jimmy Hayward • WRI: Jimmy Hayward, Scott Mosier • PRO: Scott Mosier • ED: Chris Cartagena •  DES: Mark Whiting •  MUS: Dominic Lewis • CAST: Woody Harrelson, Owen Wilson, Dan Fogler, Amy Poehler

Dear faithful reader – allow me to enlighten you on how work gets divvied up at Film Ireland HQ. If you’re imagining a more bookish version of Avengers Assemble than you’re not far off. Our roguish editor in chief Steven Galvin alerts us to upcoming missions. Usually volunteers are easy to find. You could throw a rock and hit a willing reviewer for the vast majority of films awaiting release. Arms shoot up with the eagerness of an incontinent kid in need of the bathroom. The glamour jobs like Gravity or the latest flick from the Coens cause a stampede towards Steven.

However, there’s a strain of film that causes a stampede in the opposite direction. Within seconds, ‘FI HQ’ is as empty as an echo chamber. Our plucky editor is sounding the klaxon but no one responds. It’s like a 999 call to a garda station that has deliberately left the phone off the hook for days on end. So Steven strides around the moonlit roof of FI HQ like Nick Fury pointing the Batsign in vain at the heavens.

And then a hero comes along with the strength to actually go to a G rated mid-tier non-Pixar animated film. There’s no glory in it but there is bravery. Now I’m a modest and handsome man but where does my bravery rank? Well, I occasionally nip to the shops without raingear. I once bit into a Scotch Bonnet chilli pretty much on purpose. I won’t interrupt a mugging but I will report it to the authorities at my earliest convenience. Going to a film like Free Birds though – that’s Purple Heart behaviour in critical circles.

Every critic going in knows it too. The swollen gallery of casual reviewers, guests and liggers evaporate in these cauldron moments. We are distilled down to the core few. No excess. No excuses. No passengers. Strewn across the vast chasm of seats like defiant pockets of resistance. We’re here to do a job and by god, we’re going to see it through. I know what you’re thinking by now – ‘where’s the bloody’ review? And firstly that’s not cool. This is a kid’s film and parents and children could be reading this expecting a G rated review for a G film. So ease up on the potty mouth people. Secondly, I’m trying out an AA Gill style review where he eventually mentions the food in the last two paragraphs.

So Free Birds is about a pardoned turkey on thanksgiving who travels back in time in order to change the Pilgrim’s choice of celebratory food for the very first all American holiday. Thereby saving future generations of turkeys. It’s not a bad premise at all but similar to a lot of recent animations, the idea is better than the actual script. I kept expecting a genuinely subversive notion like the turkeys trying to convert an entire nation to a vegetarian nut roast being a suitable centre piece for their festivities. As such, genuine wit is in short supply but some of the character design and sequences deliver enough action and humour to divert undemanding minds for the duration. Parents won’t be racing back to it but it’s plenty entertaining for little ones.

OK – let’s stuff in some turkey references. Audiences will flock to it because it’s plucking good fun. This film will be panned. It’s bound to get a critical roasting and be carved apart. It’s just a shame it doesn’t feature music by the Cranberries. And so on….

I’ll be back with a bulletin from the frontline again soon. Stay tuned folks and watch the skies. But not for turkeys. ‘Cos they can’t fly.

James Phelan

G (See IFCO for details)

90  mins

Free Birds is released on 29th November 2013

Free Birds – Official Website