If you based quality on the sheer number of family-friendly animated films being released this year, then we are living in the Golden Age of animated films. Sadly, quantity has nothing to do quality and far too many new movies look a lot better in the trailers than they do after you’ve forked over your admission price.

Free Birds has a plot that is pretty basic, even for an animated film. The president pardons a turkey named Reggie, and through a strange set of circumstances, he then travels back in time to change everyone’s primary protein choice for Thanksgiving. 

It’d be great to talk about the plot of the movie, but to be honest, there isn’t much of one. Reggie tries to convince everyone in the past to ignore the tastiness of the average turkey breast and, along the way, he bonds with a procession of predictable kids movie stereotypes. And for some reason, one of Reggie’s new friend’s sounds exactly like the Chihuahua from those Taco Bell commercials.

Free Birds boasts the expected mix of celebrity voices, including Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson. But despite the familiar voices, little else about the movie is fresh and interesting. The script even recycles a joke from Wilson’s film Zoolander, which itself wasn’t exactly Citizen Kane. And it manages to be both a bit too violent and too overbearing with the product placement to be suitable for young kids despite its PG rating.

While Free Birds isn’t the worst animated movie released in 2013, it might be the one that is the most frustrating for parents. The big pay-off at the end of the movie contains a piece of product placement so blatant that it will no doubt convince every viewer over the age of 16 to scream with sad laughter.

*Spoiler Alert*

Without giving away the ending completely, let’s just say that Reggie does change Thanksgiving by arranging for the delivery of food from a very well-known restaurant chain. Aside from the fact that this plot turn makes no logical sense, it seems to happen only because the company paid a lot of money to be the hero of the film.

The ending seems to argue that fast-food makes for the best Thanksgiving experience. Which is an argument that probably hasn’t been made since the days back when Chef-Boy-R-Dee was considered to be as good as homemade Italian food.

Free Birds had the potential of being a funny movie, but in the end we’re left with a sad collection of wasted opportunities. Child audiences tend to be a little more forgiving than their parents, but this film will probably leave even your youngest ones complaining their admission price would have better spent on a package or two of new LEGO.

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