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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Free Birds

By
Joseph McAleer
Source: Catholic News Service


The president of the United States, voiced by Jimmy Hayward, and Reggie, voiced by Owen Wilson, are seen in the animated movie "Free Birds."
Parents be warned: Your kids will want you to revise the Thanksgiving dinner menu once they see "Free Birds" (Relativity), a 3-D animated adventure about two rogue turkeys who travel back in time to change the "main course" of history.

Jimmy Hayward ("Horton Hears a Who!") directs this zany but good-natured comedy, co-written with Scott Mosier (and having nothing to do with the Lynyrd Skynyrd song "Free Bird"). There's something for every age wrapped up in a holiday-themed package, including cute-as-a-button characters, clever (but sometimes a bit rude) humor, a send-up of science fiction, and even a little (superficial) slice of American history.

There's also a good message for the youngest viewers: Look out for each other, or someone may end up as dinner (literally).

Our turkey hero, Reggie (voice of Owen Wilson), is an outcast on the farm. He doesn't follow the dimwitted flock, and his warnings about the farmer and his ax go unheeded—until, for some, it's too late.

"Thanksgiving is a turkey's worst nightmare," Reggie says.

Out of nowhere, the president of the United States (voiced by director Hayward) arrives to choose a turkey to receive the official pardon prior to the national holiday. Reggie's the one, and he is whisked to Camp David, where he lives in the lap of luxury.

Before long he is addicted to pizza ("much better than corn") and obsessed with watching a romantic telenovela on TV.

His strange interlude ends when he is abducted by fellow bird Jake (voice of Woody Harrelson). As the founder of the "Turkey Freedom Front," Jake enlists Reggie on a wild scheme: travel back to the first Thanksgiving in 1621, and keep turkey off the dinner table.

And so these turkeys hijack a time machine (voiced by George Takei of "Star Trek" fame) and land in Plymouth, Mass. There they meet up with their feathered ancestors, led by Chief Broadbeak (voice of Keith David) and his spunky daughter, Jenny (voice of Amy Poehler).

For Reggie and Jenny, it's love at first peck, while Jake butts beaks with Jenny's tough brother, Ranger (also voiced by Hayward), over leadership of the master plan.

The Pilgrims are a bumbling lot, grousing over the lack of food and ganging up on Governor Bradford (voice of Dan Fogler). It's left to the sadistic Myles Standish (voice of Colm Meaney) and his pack of vicious dogs to hunt down the turkeys in time for that first dinner with the native Indians.

A rollicking adventure ensues, with echoes of the great escape in 2000's "Chicken Run." While some of the action sequences may be too intense at times for younger viewers ("Those turkeys are angry birds," one Pilgrim quips), it's all in good fun, and the tasty resolution, involving one of America's favorite foods, is bound to please.

The film contains a few mildly perilous situations and some rude humor. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I—general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG—parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

*****
Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.



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Oliver Plunkett: The name of today's saint is especially familiar to the Irish and the English—and with good reason. The English martyred Oliver Plunkett for defending the faith in his native Ireland during a period of severe persecution. 
<p>Born in County Meath in 1629, he studied for the priesthood in Rome and was ordained there in 1654. After some years of teaching and service to the poor of Rome he was appointed Archbishop of Armagh in Ireland. Four years later, in 1673, a new wave of anti-Catholic persecution began, forcing Archbishop Plunkett to do his pastoral work in secrecy and disguise and to live in hiding. Meanwhile, many of his priests were sent into exile; schools were closed; Church services had to be held in secret and convents and seminaries were suppressed. As archbishop, he was viewed as ultimately responsible for any rebellion or political activity among his parishioners. 
</p><p>Archbishop Plunkett was arrested and imprisoned in Dublin Castle in 1679, but his trial was moved to London. After deliberating for 15 minutes, a jury found him guilty of fomenting revolt. He was hanged, drawn and quartered in July 1681. 
</p><p>Pope Paul VI canonized Oliver Plunkett in 1975.</p> American Catholic Blog God had a plan even before he created Adam and Eve. God is never caught off guard. He knows all. He sees all. And he is working all things together for the good of his children. Nothing can stop his plan of mercy and love.

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