I give a hoot. And I’m aware that only I can stop forest fires. The PSAs of the 1970s were pretty effective in shaping my behavior as well as the rest of the Free to Be Generation. These messages were direct: Brush Your Teeth. Don’t Litter. Don’t Play with Matches. Family films, on the other hand, usually employ gentle messaging: teamwork, believing in yourself, and other positive ideas.
So, when I saw Free Birds, it really struck me as the rare movie that tries to actively alter kids’ behavior. The film personifies turkeys, particularly the two voiced by Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson, who travel back in time in an effort to "take turkeys off the menu" for Thanksgiving by preventing the Pilgrims and Native Americans from establishing the tradition. While Free Birds is an animated fantasy, it feels more like those 1970s PSAs because the villain isn’t a menacing scoundrel on-screen – the villains are the turkey-eating viewers! Don’t be surprised if children brought to see Free Birds are less excited about the carving of the feast this November 28.
On the surface, it seems like Free Birds must be sponsored by PETA or the filmmakers are pushing veganism, but alas I’m not so sure. KidsPickFlicks took to the red carpet at the Free Birds premiere* and asked, "What menu item do you refuse to take off the Thanksgiving menu?" Free Birds director Jimmy Hayward said, “Turkey! It’s my favorite part, actually.”
Here are three other movies to see with your family this week:
Ender's Game. A bullied kid outstrategizes his peers and is selected for military leadership. It's kind of like The Hunger Games with somewhat less brutality and a bigger message about finding empathy for one's enemies.
Romeo & Juliet. Love never feels more intense than when we’re young. This tragi-romance starring Hailee Steinfeld and Douglas Booth is a great route for getting youth interested in Shakespeare.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. Dinner and a movie has never been more fun.
*Check out 12-year-old Riley and 14-year-old Cassandra’s Free Birds interviews with Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Amy Poehler and more at KidsPickFlicks.com, where all kids are movie critics!