Voices of Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Amy Poehler, Keith David, Colm Meaney; directed by Jimmy Hayward; 1 hour, 31 minutes; rated PG for some action, peril and rude humor, D+
"Free Birds" is more proof that Hollywood has almost killed the animated goose that laid the golden egg.
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 overcompensate.
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. "Turkeys are dumb," he narrates as his peers clap as friends and family are dragged off to "turkey paradise."
But Reggie is that lucky bird who wins a presidential pardon. He 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."
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 sight gags fall flat and much of the screenplay seems like a rough draft that the filmmakers - Jimmy Hayward directed the superior "Horton Hears a Who" - expected the actors to fix.
And they didn't.