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‘Free Birds’

A-I — General Patronage


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Talking turkey to youngsters

Parents be warned: Your kids will want you to revise the Thanksgiving dinner menu once they see “Free Birds” (Relativity), a 3-D animated adventure about two rogue turkeys who travel back in time to change the “main course” of history.

Jimmy Hayward (“Horton Hears a Who!”) directs this zany but good-natured comedy that has nothing to do with the Lynyrd Skynyrd song “Free Bird.” There's something for every age wrapped up in a holiday-themed package, including cute-as-a-button characters, clever (but sometimes a bit rude) humor, a send-up of science fiction, and even a little (superficial) slice of American history. There’s also a good message for the youngest viewers: Look out for each other, or someone may end up as dinner (literally).

Our turkey hero, Reggie (voice of Owen Wilson), is an outcast on the farm. He doesn’t follow the dimwitted flock, and his warnings about the farmer and his ax go unheeded – until, for some, it’s too late.

“Thanksgiving is a turkey’s worst nightmare,” Reggie says.

Out of nowhere, the president of the United States (voiced by director Hayward) arrives to choose a turkey to receive the official pardon prior to the national holiday. Reggie’s the one, and he is whisked to Camp David, where he lives in the lap of luxury. Before long he is addicted to pizza (“much better than corn”) and obsessed with watching a romantic telenovela on TV.

His strange interlude ends when he is abducted by fellow bird Jake (voice of Woody Harrelson). As the founder of the “Turkey Freedom Front,” Jake enlists Reggie on a wild scheme: travel back to the first Thanksgiving in 1621, and keep turkey off the dinner table. And so these turkeys hijack a time machine (voiced by George Takei of “Star Trek” fame) and land in Plymouth, Mass. There they meet up with their feathered ancestors, led by Chief Broadbeak (voice of Keith David) and his spunky daughter, Jenny (voice of Amy Poehler).

For Reggie and Jenny, it’s love at first peck, while Jake butts beaks with Jenny’s tough brother, Ranger (also voiced by Hayward), over leadership of the master plan. The Pilgrims are a bumbling lot, grousing over the lack of food and ganging up on Governor Bradford (voice of Dan Fogler). It’s left to the sadistic Myles Standish (voice of Colm Meaney) and his pack of vicious dogs to hunt down the turkeys in time for that first dinner with the native Indians.

A rollicking adventure ensues, with echoes of the great escape in 2000’s “Chicken Run.” While some of the action sequences may be too intense at times for younger viewers (“Those turkeys are angry birds,” one Pilgrim quips), it’s all in good fun, and the tasty resolution, involving one of America’s favorite foods, is bound to please.

The film contains a few mildly perilous situations and some rude humor. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

By Joseph McAleer, Catholic News Service

‘About Time’

L – limited adult audience, films whose problematic content
many adults would find troubling


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No time for morality

If you could play God, would you – or should you? That big question is at the heart of the romantic comedy “About Time” (Universal), a wish-fulfillment fantasy about changing your destiny at will, in this instance to win the love of your life.

It’s a tempting confection, but with a bitter aftertaste. The manipulation of others for selfish reasons, coupled with disrespect for the role of divine providence in one’s life, may leave the viewer feeling empty rather than satisfied.

On his 21st birthday, Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) is given a rather unusual present by his father (Bill Nighy). He informs his shy, insecure son that the men in the family possess a special gift: They can travel back in time. It’s as easy as finding a dark space, clenching your fists, thinking of a specific moment, and – presto – you’re there.

Dad offers few guidelines on how to use this ability other than a command to have “an extraordinary life.” So the newly confident Tim jumps inside his bedroom wardrobe (shades of Narnia) and travels back to New Year’s Eve to kiss the girl he was too shy to kiss the first go-round. Tim discovers his purpose in life: to use time travel to land a girlfriend, fall in love, and have a perfect, happy life.

At first, it seems so easy. Tim meets Mary (Rachel McAdams) at a restaurant, and decides she’s the one. Multiple do-overs back in time refine and, ultimately, seal the deal. This is where “About Time” intersects “Groundhog Day” (1993). Unlike that charming film, where the hero betters himself as well as the world around him, “About Time” takes a more narrow view. Tim is only interested in his own happiness. In fact, when he tries to change the past of others (for their own good), he decides not to, as the consequences of doing so would have an adverse effect on his own carefully manufactured “happiness.”

In the end, “About Time” reconciles fantasy with reality, with a message about appreciating life as it naturally unfolds, accepting the good while dealing with the bad. Unfortunately, the journey to that weepy, overly sentimental resolution is riddled with distasteful and sometimes sacrilegious humor.

The film contains semi-graphic premarital sexual activity, brief nudity, several vulgar gestures, some sacrilegious humor and sexual innuendo, and much profanity and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is L – limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R – restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

By Joseph McAleer Catholic News Service

Monthly List of Recent Film Ratings (November)


Across the Divide, A-II (no rating)

The Awakening, A-III (R)


Baggage Claim, A-III (PG-13)

Battle of the Year, A-III (PG-13)

Blue Jasmine, L (PG-13)

Bully, A-III (PG-13)


Captain Phillips, A-III (PG-13)

Carrie, L (R)

Closed Circuit, A-III (R)

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2, A-II (PG)

The Counselor, O (R)


Despicable Me 2, A-I (PG)

Dream House, L (PG-13)

Don John, O (R)


Elysium, L (R)

Ender's Game, A-II (PG-13)

Escape Plan, L (R)


The Family, O (R)

Fast & Furious 6, L (PG-13)

The Fifth Estate, A-III (R)

Frances Ha, L (R)

Free Birds, A-I (PG)


Getaway, A-III (PG-13

The Grandmaster, A-III (PG-13)

Gravity, A-III (PG-13)

The Great Gatsby, A-III (PG-13)

Grown Ups 2, A-III (PG-13)


The Hangover Part III, L (R)


The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, L (PG-13)

Insidious: Chapter 2, A-III (PG-13)


Jack the Giant Slayer, A-II (PG-13)

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, O (R)

Jobs, A-III (PG-13)


Kick-Ass 2, O (R)

Killer Elite, A-III (R)


The Last Exorcism Part II, L (PG-13)

Last Vegas, A-III (PG-13)

Lee Daniels' The Butler, A-III (PG-13)

The Lone Ranger, L (PG-13)


Machete Kills, O (R)

Man of Steel, A-III (PG-13)

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, A-III (PG-13)

Much Ado About Nothing, A-III (PG-13)


One Direction: This Is Us, A-II (PG)


Paranoia, A-III (PG-13)

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, A-III (PG)

Phantom, A-III (R)

The Place Beyond the Pines, L (R)

Planes, A-I (G)

Prisoners, L (R)


Quartet, A-III (PG-13)


RED 2, A-III (PG-13)

The Reluctant Fundamentalist, A-III (R)

Restless Heart, A-II (no rating)

Riddick, O (R)

Runner Runner, L (R)

Rush, L (R)


Skyfall, A-III (PG-13)

The Smurfs 2, A-I (PG)

Something Borrowed, L (PG-13)

The Spectacular Now, L (R)


Turbo, A-I (PG)

2 Guns, L (R)

Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor, A-III (PG-13)


Warm Bodies, A-III (PG-13)

We're the Millers, O (R)

White House Down, A-III (PG-13)

The Wolverine, A-III (PG-13)

The World's End, A-III (R)


You're Next, O (R)

MPAA ratings: G – general audiences. All ages admitted; PG – parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children; PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13; R – restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian; NC-17 – no one 17 and under admitted.