Free Birds is a stale turkey hash that heaves a lot of ingredients in the oven but never turns on the gas, a frantic attempt to come up with an animated film built around Thanksgiving Day traditions. The holiday deserves far better.
Reggie, the lucky bird (voiced by Owen Wilson), wins the turkey lottery when he's pardoned by the president and whisked off to Camp David in Marine One.
There he is shanghaied by Jake (Woody Harrelson), a radical gobbler, who stuffs him in a time machine and sets the controls for Plymouth Meeting (not the one with the Ikea) in 1621. Their mission: Get turkey off the menu at the inaugural feast.
Sound like fun? It isn't.
Reggie isn't a particularly attractive or likable hero. (He and all the other turkeys in the film are drawn to look more like pigeons.) And Wilson's cartoonish voice is, ironically, too flutey for a cartoon.
The film's best creation, the president's tactless narcoleptic daughter (voiced by 9-year-old America's Got Talent finalist Kaitlyn Maher), gets about two minutes of screen time.
Amy Poehler acquits herself as Reggie's feathery American Indian love interest. And Jimmy Hayward does a better job juggling the voices of half the cast (including the Bill Clinton-sound-alike president) than he does as director.
You want a fowl comedy with wings? Stick with Chicken Run. Because Free Birds simply scurries along from one weak gag to the next. Gobble gobble.
Free Birds * 1/2 (out of four stars)
Directed by Jimmy Hayward. With the voices of Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Amy Poehler, and George Takei. Distributed by Relativity Media.
Running time: 1 hour, 31 mins
Parent's guide: PG (crude humor)
Showing at: area theaters