Everything about "Free Birds" feels perfunctory, from its generic title and holiday setting to its starry voice cast and undistinguished use of 3-D.
The puns and pop culture references are bountiful in this Thanksgiving-themed animated adventure, but even by the standards of a kids movie, the wordplay is pretty lame. To play the filmmakers' game, there is simply too much stuffing in this bird: too many characters, subplots, gags and ideas, which include time travel, nutrition and genocide.
Director and co-writer Jimmy Hayward ("Horton Hears a Who!" "Jonah Hex") offers a film that’s sufficiently colorful and cluttered with wise-cracking creatures—talking turkeys, to be specific—but with the possibility of death lurking about at all times, it never feels particularly lively. And it certainly doesn’t help that Hayward’s script, which he co-wrote with longtime Kevin Smith collaborator Scott Mosier (from a story by David I. Stern and John J. Strauss—why must these films always be cobbled together by committee?) bears such resemblance to superior movies.
The time-travel element is reminiscent specifically of "The Terminator" and "Back to the Future," while the glorious "Chicken Run" depicted the idea of fleeing fowl in far more clever, charming fashion. But the best parts of "Free Bird" actually occur in the beginning, in the present day, before anyone has gone anywhere.