Maybe it’s just me, but I think this may be the worst idea for a movie intended for children I have heard since the one about the kid bank robber. Does anyone think it makes sense to horrify children just before Thanksgiving with a movie about two turkeys who want to go back in time to prevent centuries of turkeys being eaten to celebrate America’s oldest holiday? Will children who see this movie burst into tears at Grandma’s house and insist on eating pizza for Thanksgiving dinner?
Food is everyone’s favorite part of holidays, a turkey named Reggie (Owen Wilson) tells us, “unless you are the meal.” Reggis is something of a Chicken Little, telling the other turkeys that they are being raised for slaughter, but they do not believe him. They think that the farmer is their friend, and they envy the lucky birds he takes away from the flock because they think it is a special treat. The President of the United States arrives at the turkey farm with his little daughter for the annual photo op “pardoning” ceremony. As happens in real life (but at the White House) an especially handsome bird is presented to the President, who smiles for the cameras and sends it to a petting zoo while the rest of the flock is sent to the butcher. The President’s daughter (Kaitlyn Maher) is a brat who is always obnoxiously throwing a tantrum to get her own way or bizarrely going to sleep on the spot (she might want to ask her pediatrician about narcolepsy at her next check-up). She likes the scrawny Reggie and insists that he not only be pardoned but that she get to keep him at Camp David as a pet.
Reggie is very happy, ordering pizza delivery and luxuriating in a terry cloth robe with the Presidential seal, until he meets another turkey named Jake (Woody Harrelson), who wants to go back in time to the first Thanksgiving, with the pilgrims and the Native Americans, to persuade them to start a different tradition by eating something other than turkey for dinner. They end up in an egg-shaped time machine adorably voiced by George (“Star Trek”) Takei, and soon are back to the Plymouth Colony in 1621, where they have to rally the wild turkeys who are the ancestors of today’s highly cultivated birds. The leader’s spirited daughter is Jenny (Amy Poehler), a practical-minded turkey who handles her lazy eye problem with aplomb.
Hiding somewhere inside the over-plotting, time-travel anomalies, inconsistent characterization and tone, and family-unfriendly themes of animal slaughter there are some brief moments of humor, but the premise is so ghastly that even that feels hollow. It is supposed to be about sensitivity and empowerment but it comes across as callous and pushy.
Parents should know that sensitive viewers may be disturbed by the theme of killing turkeys to eat on Thanksgiving. The movie includes cartoon-style peril and violence, some with guns, mostly comic but minor characters are injured and killed and there is a sad death of a parent who sacrifices himself. There is brief crude humor including joke about developmental disabilities and mixed marriages.
Family discussion: Why does Reggie question what is going on when the rest of the flock does not? Why was it important to learn about Jake’s past?
If you like this, try: “Babe”