Free Birds, directed by Jimmy Hayward, is an animation following the journey of Reggie, a lucky turkey who gets recruited for a time traveling mission to remove turkeys from the menu during thanksgiving. This movie received some of the lowest ratings, including a 18% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 5.9/10 on IMDB. One top critic, Ben Nicholson said, “Rather than being a holiday treat, Free birds itself has ended up as some sort of thanksgiving turkey.” Why? Free Birds commits one fatal flaw: breaking the TANSTAAFL rule the movie itself presents. TANSTAAFL stands for the phrase, “There Ain’t No Such Thing as a Free Lunch,” or in other words, “nothing is free.”
How does Free Birds break the TANSTAAFL rule? To discover how this movie breaks the rule, one must understand the foundation upon which all stories are built: struggle. Every movie has conflict whether it is a physical, moral, or societal conflict. Conflict forces the audience to regard one character as a villain and another as the hero. It forces contention between moral good with moral evil. When the hero and villain have conflict, they both must struggle to overcome the other. Who doesn’t want to root for the underdog who gives it everything he has? The hero’s victory must be hard won where he gives his utmost and is justly rewarded.
Free Birds breaks the TANSTAAFL rule, not by giving away free tickets but by giving the victory to Reggie, the unwilling protagonist, without him properly earning it. Reggie originally was a bystander who was recruited by Jake, the President of an organization trying to save turkeys, to go on the mission to change thanksgiving by going back in time with a time machine. By the end of the film, it is revealed that Reggie used the time machine in order to go into Jake’s past to get Jack to recruit Reggie in the first place. This creates a loop of causality, an action that basically causes itself to exist, where Reggie basically reaches into the past and changes it in order to get him to time travel without himself experiencing any major hardship.
Free Birds, however, did not win the “worst animated movie” award. Some of the jokes in the movie are quite funny. Personally, there is one scene in the movie that genuinely made me laugh: As Jake and Reggie sprint through the facility where the time machine is stored, the PA system alerts the facility’s guards of the infiltration. A pair of guards preparing their flamethrowers ask a higher ranked officer, “How should we address the situation?” The ranked officer replies, “Uuh, with cranberry sauce.” This line fulfills all the qualities of a good one-liner, and several of these are scattered around the movie, sweetening the coffee a touch.
An IMDB reviewer, Michaelhirakida, concludes his scathing critique of the movie with, “Is this a bad movie, yes… It’s a movie so bad I’m speechless.” I agree that the movie failed at a fundamental level, but instead of being speechless, I have tried to outline the fundamental flaws in this movie for a reason. I do this in order to hold up the movie as an example of script writing gone wrong and teach us how to respond: Human’s learn from failure, and I certainly have learned from this movie’s mistakes. Many people’s first reaction would be to blast the movie and wish it didn’t exist but let us be thankful it exists because it teaches us a very important lesson—there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.
“Free Birds (2013).” Rotten Tomatoes, https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/free_birds_2013.
“Free Birds.” IMDb, IMDb.com, 21 Oct. 2013, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1621039/.