"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. (“Animate it, charge 3-D prices and their parents will grit their teeth and bear it!”)
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 — 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.