Story

Reggie the turkey (voice of Owen Wilson) is the smartest turkey in the flock. He has spent his life warning the rest of the flock about how they’re all being fattened up for the Thanksgiving menu. But the rest of the flock, who are not quite as switched on as Reggie, believe that they’re being taken to turkey paradise, not the slaughter shed. Thanks to the President’s young daughter (voice of Kaitlyn Maher), Reggie ends up being chosen as the annual Pardon Turkey. This means he’s taken back to Camp David where he lives a life of leisure watching TV, eating pizza and wearing slippers.

Reggie’s life of pampered pleasure comes to an abrupt end when he’s kidnapped by a fanatical turkey named Jake (voice of Woody Harrelson), who is a member of the Turkey Freedom Front. Apparently Jake has been sent on a mission by the ‘Great Turkey’ to find Reggie, go back in time and change history so that turkeys are no longer on the Thanksgiving menu.

Through a combination of determination and mistakes, Jake and Reggie end up in an experimental time machine named STEVE (voice of George Takei). It transports them back to Plymouth in 1621, three days before the first Thanksgiving. There they get involved with a flock of native turkeys lead by Chief Broadbeak (voice of Keith David) and his charming daughter Jenny (voice of Amy Poehler). Things get worse for Reggie and Jake when they realise that the native turkeys are battling for survival against a ruthless hunter named Myles Standish (voice of Colm Meaney). He’s on a mission to round up and capture the wild turkeys for the first Thanksgiving feast.

Themes

People raising and killing animals for food; time travel; changing history

Violence

Free Birds contains cartoon violence throughout, some action violence and peril, some violence involving gun and cannon fire, and the death of a main character. For example:

  • One scene shows a turkey factory where turkeys are kept in small individual cages and fattened up for slaughter. A young turkey tries to escape, running away from the cages while being chased by humans. The young turkey has several eggs tucked under his wings.
  • Two large male turkeys challenge each other to a fight. They puff up their chests and tail feathers in a threatening but funny way, and punch and slap each other in the face. The two turkeys inflate their wattles until they burst. They end up dancing with each other.
  • There is a large crowd of angry humans holding pitchforks. A man accidentally stabs himself in the foot with a pitchfork, but the actual stabbing occurs off screen.
  • Men with guns chase turkeys and shoot at them. No turkeys are shot or injured. Bullets rip large holes in the sides of trees and explode around the escaping turkeys.
  • Humans chase turkeys through a forest. The turkeys avoid several booby traps including pits filled with sharpened stakes and large suspended logs swinging from trees.
  • Some turkeys take up spears and march on a fort. A standoff occurs between the turkeys and the humans. The turkeys launch flaming pumpkins at the humans, and one of the flaming pumpkins hits a human in the face. The people fire hot cannon balls at the turkeys. A time machine appears out of thin air and creates a swirling vortex that sucks up both cannon balls and cannons.
  • A man with an axe chops his way into a hollow tree covering the entrance to a hidden underground turkey city. Humans dig their way into the city and chase the turkeys with savage hunting dogs, including one turkey with chicks. Men grab turkeys by their necks and put captured turkeys in cages. A man pours flammable liquid over the ground and sets fire to it to burn out the turkeys. The fire rages through tunnels. A large turkey stands beneath a falling burning log to hold it up while the other turkeys escape. Eventually the log crashes down, killing the turkey. A later scene shows a memorial service for the turkey.

Content that may disturb children

Under 5

In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, Free Birds has some scenes that could scare or disturb children under five years. For example:

  • One scene shows an egg-shaped time machine surrounded by sporadic lightning flashes. One of the two turkeys in the machine transforms into a combination of mutated creatures.
  • Several scenes feature vicious snarling hunting dogs chasing turkeys.
  • One turkey has a bad eye that appears to roll around in the turkey’s eye socket. When the turkey holds her nose and blows, the eye fixes itself.
  • The movie’s main villain is an unshaven scar-faced hunter, who carries a large hunting knife that he uses in a threatening way.
  • One scene that’s supposed to be funny shows a metal nut flying through the air and sticking into a turkey’s eye socket. The turkey takes out the metal nut without any apparent injury. 

From 5-8

Children in this age group might also be scared by the violent and scary scenes from Free Birds mentioned above. 

From 8-13

Children in this age group are unlikely to be scared by Free Birds

Over 13

Nothing of concern 

Sexual references

Free Birds has a few low-level sexual references. For example:

  • The US President’s young daughter tells a turkey that a female assistant likes her daddy, but that the turkey can’t tell anyone. She then tells the turkey that one of the men is getting a divorce.
  • A turkey watches a Mexican version of a soap opera about man who women find irresistible and want to marry. Numerous stereotypical love-struck women look at the man in a flirtatious way.
  • A male turkey talks about ‘rubbing wattles’. A female turkey tells a male turkey that she is into less muscle and more mind.
  • A female turkey tells a male turkey that a turkey chick wants him to throw up some worms into her mouth. Then she says, ‘What girl wouldn’t?’
  • A male turkey asks a female turkey to kiss him.
  • A male and female turkey flirt mildly. 

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

Free Birds shows some unspecified drinks on the table at a Thanksgiving dinner. 

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern 

Product placement

There is no product placement of concern in Free Birds itself, but merchandise associated with this movie is being marketed to children. 

Coarse language

Free Birds has occasional exclamations and name-calling that young children might copy. 

Ideas to discuss with your children

Free Birds is an animated adventure comedy that portrays the story of the very first Thanksgiving holiday from a turkey’s perspective.

Older children are likely to be entertained by the talking animals and cartoon humour, but there are several violent and scary scenes that are likely to scare children under six years as well as some older children.

You might need to explain the movie’s plot to Australian children who are unfamiliar with Thanksgiving holiday customs. Children might also find the movie’s time travel confusing.

These are the main messages from this movie:

  • Respect the ways of others.
  • Sometimes you need to make a stand (possible involving physical violence) against violent acts.

Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include the following:

  • Bravery: a lead character in the movie makes the ultimate sacrifice while defending the lives of the turkeys he loves.
  • Teamwork: by working together the turkeys overcome insurmountable odds to protect themselves and survive.

You might feel you want or need to talk about where our food comes from and why people kill and eat animals. You might be concerned by the stereotypical way in which Native Americans are portrayed and by the way that wild turkeys as shown as stereotyped Native Americans.