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Jimmy Hayward
Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Amy Poehler, George Takei, Colm Meaney, Keith David, Dan Fogler, Jimmy Hayward, Kaitlyn Maher
Writing Credits:
Scott Mosier, Jimmy Hayward, David I. Stern (story), John J. Strauss (story)

The greatest turkey movie of all time.

From the Academy Awardr-Winning producer of Shrek comes a hilarious animated adventure about two turkeys from opposite sides of the tracks who travel back in time in order to keep their species off the Thanksgiving menu. Featuring an all-star voice cast, including Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson and Amy Poehler, Free Birds is loaded with laughs and stuffed with fun for the whole family!

Box Office:
$55 million.
Opening Weekend
$15.805 million on 3736 screens.
Domestic Gross
$55.435 million.

Rated PG

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 91 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 2/4/2014

• “Birds Flipping History” Featurette
• “Animating Free Birds: The Main Course” Featurette
• “Winging It: Animators in Action” Featurette
• “Talking Turkey” Featurette
• Music Video
• Previews and Trailer


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Free Birds [Blu-Ray] (2013)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 10, 2014)

Once upon a time, I believed that animated holiday movies equaled a license to print money. However, recent semi-duds like Arthur Christmas and Rise of the Guardians made me question this theory.

In those cases, I excused their lack of box office prosperity due to different factors. I thought Arthur was too inherently British for US audiences, and I figured Rise focused so strongly on Jack Frost, a non-traditional holiday figure, that it alienated moviegoers.

So how do I explain the mediocre receipts that 2013’s Free Birds encountered? Maybe audiences don’t care about Thanksgiving movies – or maybe they just don’t want to watch mediocre Thanksgiving movies. While not without occasional charms, Birds fails to deliver much mirth.

For years, a turkey named Reggie (voiced by Owen Wilson) tries to warn his not-so-bright feathered friends to fear Thanksgiving as doomsday for their kind. Eventually Reggie gets plucked from his home farm, but he avoids a fiery fate.

Instead, Reggie finds himself in the midst of the president’s (Jimmy Hayward) annual “pardon the Thanksgiving turkey” PR session. The First Daughter (Kaitlyn Maher) decides she likes Reggie, so he winds up as pampered poultry with a cushy gig as First Bird.

Into this idyllic lifestyle steps an interloping turkey named Jake (Woody Harrelson). He tells Reggie that the government possesses a time machine and they should use it to head back to 1621.

Why? To alter the first Thanksgiving and get turkey off the national menu. We follow their exploits as they attempt this daunting task and encounter a mix of additional complications and characters.

Like many people, I sometimes check out Rotten Tomatoes before I see movies. I don’t take it as gospel, but it can be tough to argue with the consensus.

As such, the film’s 18 percent rating at RT gave me pause when I went to see Birds theatrically. Based on its previews, I thought it looked funny and felt surprised to see such consistently, severely negative reviews. Every once in a while, I think the consensus is wrong, and I hoped Birds would offer one of those cases. Heck, Despicable Me 2 has a 75 percent rating on RT, and I thought it was a bore.

Alas, I couldn’t disagree with the negative assessments of Birds. While it may not be as awful as that 18 percent would lead one to believe, the film becomes mediocre at best.

Honestly, I can’t quite figure out what went wrong. Birds comes with a good cast and a fun premise. It boasts many opportunities for clever jokes and exciting action bits. Director Jimmy Hayward turned a short story into a delightful animated flick via 2008’s Horton Hears a Who!, so how could be flop with this material?

I’m not sure, but flop he does. In essence, Birds offers a great concept and hopes that this theme will carry the day. It lacks the thought and narrative direction that it needs to make it more than just a cool idea.

Honestly, beyond “time-traveling turkeys try to change the first Thanksgiving”, I’m not sure anyone gave a lot more thought to the story. Or maybe they gave too much thought, as Birds steers away from its basic idea too often. It doesn’t seem sure of where it wants to go, so it flits and flaps its way around unnecessary plot/character areas.

These make the movie meander and ruin almost any positive potential it boasts. As much as Birds attempts to become epic and develop its characters, it falls flat. We just don’t really invest in much what we see.

Perhaps because they sensed how little meat came on its feathered bones, the actors work overtime to sell their characters. This tends to backfire, as the performers seem too eager to please. Rather than let the roles come across as natural within their circumstances, the actors usually overplay the parts and mar whatever minor comedic potential the film might’ve given to us. Some good line readings and laughs still result, but these seem rare.

All of this leaves Birds as a definite disappointment. I hoped I’d find a lively, freewheeling comedy with a bit of edge but instead, I got a dull, flat adventure with only occasional glimmers of amusement.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A+/ Audio B+/ Bonus D+

Free Birds appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The film looked marvelous from start to finish.

Sharpness seemed virtually flawless at all times. The movie appeared crisp and detailed with no signs of softness anywhere to be seen. I discerned no examples of moiré effects or jagged edges, and edge haloes remained absent. At no point did I find evidence of any print flaws, either, as this was a clean presentation.

Colors appeared full and vivid. With a pretty natural palette, the hues came across as solid and vibrant. Black levels seemed deep and rich, and shadow detail was appropriately dark but never excessively heavy. All in all, the movie provided a terrific image that seemed reference quality.

The DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Free Birds also worked well, though it didn’t match up to the fantastic picture. The film featured a fairly forward-oriented soundfield in which the front speakers presented a well-integrated sonic image that provided a broad impression. Sounds moved neatly across the channels and seemed accurately placed within the environment.

Surround usage appeared somewhat limited at times, though the movie included a few scenes in which they came to life in a more compelling manner. For instance, the time machine segments made solid use of the back channels, and a few other action-oriented pieces also used the speakers well. These didn’t dominate the movie, but they added life when necessary.

Audio quality appeared strong. Dialogue always seemed distinct and natural, and the speech showed no signs of edginess or concerns related to intelligibility. Music sounded bright and offered fine dynamic range. Effects were clear and without distortion, and they also displayed nice bass response when appropriate. Though I doubt you’ll use it to show off your home theater, the soundtrack fit the movie and added pizzazz at times.

When we shift to the set’s extras, we begin with Birds Flipping History. During the one-minute, 27-second piece, we see a fake school play that involves “The Great Turkey”. It’s odd and pointless.

In the four-minute, 36-second Animating Free Birds: The Main Course, we hear from director Jimmy Hayward, fur and feather supervisor Monica Sawyer, texture supervisor Todd Harper, set dressing supervisor Jono Farmer, lighting supervisor Jeff Alcantara, and editor Chris Cartagena. Dubbed the “anatomy of a scene”, we look at the creation of the film’s “Pants-Off Dance-Off”. It’s too short to tell us much, of course, but we get a few good moments.

Winging It: Animators in Action goes for four minutes, 32 seconds and features an intro from Hayward. He tells us about the use of live-action reference footage; from there we see some of that videotaped material and watch its adaptation into the final animation. I like this opportunity to check out the behind the scenes work by the animators.

For a look at the movie’s score, we head to Talking Turkey. This featurette fills six minutes, 23 seconds and offers notes from composer Dominic Lewis and Relativity Media President of Music Bob Bowen. As expected, we learn about the film’s music and what Lewis wanted to do with his score. Like the other programs, “Turkey” seems too brief to be meaningful, but it comes with some decent insights.

A music video for “Shake a Tail Feather”. To refer to this 24-second clip as a “music video” is an exaggeration, as it’s just a quick promo for the movie.

The disc opens with ads for Rio 2, Mr. Peabody and Sherman and Walking with Dinosaurs. We also find the trailer for Birds.

The package includes a DVD copy of Free Birds. It provides the trailer, the music video and additional ads but lacks the other extras.

When I saw Free Birds, I expected a rollicking goofball comedy. Instead, I found a somewhat lifeless, meandering adventure without much charm to it. The Blu-ray provides outstanding picture and very good audio but lacks substantial bonus materials. Free Birds might be a decent holiday distraction for the kids, but it remains a disappointment.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.25 Stars Number of Votes: 4
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