By Roger Moore McClatchy-Tribune News Service
“Free Birds” is more proof, as if 2013 needed it, that Hollywood has almost killed the animated goose that laid the golden egg.
No matter that in this case, the goose is a turkey.
You didn’t need to be told that. But a year that has produced the clever and heartfelt “The Croods” and the passably amusing “Despicable Me 2” has also had a healthy dose of sausage factory about it.
“Epic,” “Monsters University,” “Planes,” “Escape From Planet Earth,” “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2” and “Turbo” — all major pictures that hint at a talent pool spread absurdly thin and an industry with sneering contempt for its audience.
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 over-compensate.
Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Amy Poehler and George Takei are funny folks, one and all. Yet there’s barely a laugh in it.
The strain shows, right at the opening credits, when a title tells us this “is loosely based” on a true story — “unless, of course” you take into account the talking turkeys who talk turkey.
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. The gag writers thought it would be cute to make this Southern president with the bratty daughter Clintonian. Hellooo, 1996.
Reggie 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.”
Frozen, under-cooked and sorely lacking much in the way of “all the trimmings,” this turkey isn’t ready to serve.
“Free Birds” (one and a half stars)
A cast of all-star voices (Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Amy Poehler, Keith David, Colm Meaney) can’t save this half-baked story full of tired jokes and retread gags. The comic stars have little to work with.
Rated: PG for action, rude humor.
Showing: Alderwood, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Olympic, Stanwood, Meridian, Thornton Place, Woodinville, Blue Fox, Cascade Mall, Oak Harbor.