When we think of Thanksgiving, most of us instantly think of travel, food, and elastic pants. The Norman Rockwell version of the holiday is one we are most familiar with: a large family gathered around a table jam-packed with a stunning feast. As times have changed, family dynamics have changed, and who gathers at our tables in November has changed. Now many of us include our chosen family or friends who have nowhere else to eat sweet potatoes. In other words, Thanksgiving has become a holiday about friendship.
This weekend, I went to Los Angeles to see an early screening of Free Birds, the inaugural feature animated film from Reel FX, a Texas-based animation company. Starring the voices of Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, and Amy Poehler, the film had me cracking up. The premise of the movie is one of the most inventive I have heard in a while: two turkeys go back in time to the very first Thanksgiving and try to get turkeys off of the menu.
Here’s the really clever thing though: the film doesn’t really dabble heavily into the world of food. It is not a movie about “farm to table” or “where does my meal come from” (although you could certainly weave that into your own family discussions if you like). At the core, it is a film about finding and celebrating your people, um, turkeys. It’s also a film about following through and never giving up.
Before I take my four and a 1/2 year old, who has been asking to see this movie since we saw the trailer earlier this summer, I do plan on having a brief “heads up” conversation about the history of Thanksgiving, as well as beginning the talks about where our food comes from. While the filmmakers have said they do not intend this movie to be anything other than a family Thanksgiving movie, why not seize the day and take advantage of the moment to begin these kind of talks?
As far as the movie goes, I seriously loved some of the sci-fi winks that director Jimmy Hayward peppered through out the film. When you go, see if you can spot the Yoda homage and the nod to Bill and Ted.
Getting this film prepped, cooked, out of the oven, and onto the big screen took many ingredients and chefs. Let’s find out what the recipe was!
Recipe for Free Birds:
Free Birds Pie 1 of 12
What does it take to create a sweet Thanksgiving movie the entire family will enjoy this November?
The Main Dish: Owen Wilson 2 of 12
You've got to start with a yummy main dish. Owen Wilson does a great job bringing some meat to Reggie, a turkey who feels like there has to be more to life than getting fat and ending up in "turkey paradise." He is an everyman's hero who is constantly pushing himself to get back into the challenges of life and never give up.
The Complimentary Sidedish: Woody Harrelson 3 of 12
Woody Harrelson is almost unrecognizable as the voice of the larger than life Jake, a simple-minded turkey who is on a mission. Jake is pure heart and passion. It was obviously a role Woody was able to sink his teeth into.
The Sweet and Savory: Amy Poehler 4 of 12
We don't meet Amy Poehler's Jenny until the middle of the film, but as soon as Amy's energy becomes a part of the story, everything shifts and blooms. Her comedy is exactly what you hope it will be: clever, on point, and just a tad zany.
Chemistry Between the Cast 5 of 12
Sometimes you can have wonderful ingredients, but the dish still falls flat. But with Free Birds, all of the key players brought out zest and flavors within each other.
The Butter: George Takei 6 of 12
...and everything is just EVEN BETTER with butter. George Takei has a bit of a mystery role in the movie, but as soon as you hear his voice, it is like two sticks of butter slowly melting in the pan.
The Delectable Yam and Chef: Jimmy Hayward 7 of 12
I can not imagine how fun it was to work with this cast, but after meeting Jimmy, I know the cast must have had a blast working with him. Jimmy is the creative force who brought to life the magic of Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who! and his energy is electric. He not only directed Free Birds, but he also voiced many of the secondary characters.
The Kitchen: Reel FX 8 of 12
Free Birds is the first feature length film to be produced by Reel FX in Dallas, Texas. Owen and Woody were friends with executives at Reel FX, and their involvement made this a buddy film from the inside out.
Amy Poehler as Jenny 9 of 12
Jenny has Amy's blue eyes, but that is where the physical resemblance ends.
Owen and Woody as Reggie and Jake 10 of 12
Owen and Woody have so much chemistry in person, and it 100% translates to film. These guys need to make more movies together.
Seasonings: Unexpected Combinations 11 of 12
One of the delights of Free Birds is the unexpected flavor combinations. Two things I bet you never thought you would see in a Thanksgiving movie: pizza and telenovelas.
More Seasonings: Ha Ha Ha 12 of 12
The comedy is as fresh as an organic, free-range, pastured turkey. Expect to laugh at absurdities, expect to suddenly crave pizza, and expect to have a fun family time at this Thanksgiving feast of a film.
Image Credit: Author art, PR Photos and Relativity Media.
Disclosure: Relativity Media invited me to attend a screening of Free Birds this weekend in Los Angeles. The opinions in this post are entirely my own.
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