Making the Grades
If the movie Free Birds is part of your Thanksgiving Day plans, you might want to watch it after you eat dinner. Otherwise you could find yourself ordering fast food instead of enjoying the traditional holiday meal. Why? Because Free Birds is all about rewriting history in favor of political correctness when it comes to dining options.
There are a lot of turkeys in this movie, however the script may be the biggest one. Reggie (voice by Owen Wilson) has been warning his fellow gobblers that they are only being fattened up for someone’s dinner table. But the feather-headed fowl won’t listen. Just as Reggie reissues the alarm, he gets plucked from the flock by the daughter of the US President (voice by Kaitlyn Maher). Luckily, instead of getting stuffed, he is chosen for the traditional pardoning of the turkey ceremony and suddenly finds himself living the life of luxury at the taxpayers’ expense.
Yet his endless evenings of cable TV and truckloads of pizza come to an abrupt halt when he is kidnapped and hauled off to a secret military installation that houses a time machine. His captor, a brawny, action-oriented turkey named Jake (voice by Woody Harrelson), wants Reggie to go back in time with him to the first Thanksgiving and get turkeys off the menu.
Messing with the institution of Thanksgiving dinner is a risky move. And there seems to be plenty of other agenda items written into this script too. Everything from animal rights, negative military stereotypes, female empowerment and a spoof on the latest dance competition movies make it into this film. The story also hints at a presidential mistress, environmental issues of “over-grazing” and some sexual attraction between two muscular male birds. That’s a lot to cover in an animation supposedly aimed at children.
Most kids will likely be drawn to the film’s silly gags, so parents should be aware that the cartoon includes gun use, dynamite and an intentionally set fire meant to drive a some turkeys from the safety of their home. Characters also experience frequent peril and several die off screen. Historical figures also get the rough treatment. Myles Standish (voice by Colm Meany) is portrayed as a savage killing machine and Governor Bradford (voice by Dan Fogler) is shown as a corpulent, selfish leader. And the human Native Americans who inhabited the land get only seconds of screen time.
In the end, Free Birds becomes a flighty tale that seemingly has little to do with dressing or cranberries. Giving a voice to these bird-brained creatures makes for an interesting take on Thanksgiving. And time definitely isn’t the only thing that gets warped in this holiday-inspired story.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Free Birds.
Why do only some of the animals get a voice in this movie? How does limiting who can talk change the perspective? What might the dogs have to say about turkeys?
In the film a character points a laser beam into another character’s eye for comedic effect. What are the real dangers of this? Does making the event funny take away from the seriousness of it? With increasing incidents of lasers being pointed at airplane pilots, is this depiction a good idea?
Reggie introduces an alternative food suggestion for Thanksgiving. What animals would be impacted by his choice?
What Thanksgiving traditions do you have? Learn more about how the tradition of eating turkey for Thanksgiving dinner began.