'Free Birds' Runs Afowl of PC Police
Not even casting a Bill Clinton sound-alike in the new movie Free Birds could keep the P.C. police at bay.
The animated feature follows two very different turkeys who travel back in time to stop their brethren from becoming the signature Thanksgiving dinner meal. It's a wholly absurd lark featuring a presidential pardon, time travel high jinks and the animated voices of Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, George Takei and Amy Poehler.
The film is still drawing the ire of several prominent film critics for what they perceive as slights to Native Americans.
The AV Club's review smashes the movie for not following a historically appropriate sensibility:
But Free Birds doesn’t just obliterate any semblance of historical sensitivity in its effort to stake a claim on rarely attempted holiday films. (See also: 2011’s Easter-themed Hop.) It equates turkeys—birds repeatedly referred to as dumb and incapable of fighting for their own lives—to Native Americans. In doing so, the film marginalizes the role that culture played in bringing turkeys into the colonial ecosystem, while ignoring that the natives were also hunting and killing the birds, and thus were not exactly allies in the struggle against the colonists.
Entertainment Weekly hits a similar theme in its review:
This is where a ridiculous, potentially amusing premise devolves into a series of hurried (and vaguely offensive) natives-against-musket-wielding-intruders tropes (the 17th-century turkeys even live in a Home Tree of sorts, à la Avatar).
Variety's Justin Change began his review by calling the film "noxious-but-sanitized exercise in family-friendly cultural insensitivity." He wasn't done.
It could even be argued that the film, in sympathizing with the persecuted party, has cleverly packaged America’s ugly legacy of oppression and genocide for kid-friendly consumption. Still, the likening of a gravely mistreated ethnic group to a wild animal species can’t help but strike an unwelcome note; even more off-putting, at least from the standpoint of nutrition-concerned parents, is the film’s cynical suggestion (spoiler alert!) that fast food is somehow a preferable alternative to fresh poultry.