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Family Filmgoer: ‘Free Birds’ aims its laughs more at parents than kids

“Free Birds” (PG): “Free Birds” joins other recent animated 3-D films that seem to aim their humor equally at parents as kids – too much so. That doesn’t mean “Free Birds” isn’t funny, because it often is, and it should give kids 6 and older a good giggle. But it feels like it was made by committee.

The hero is a farm-raised turkey named Reggie (voice of Owen Wilson), an undersized outlier with a blue head and neck, who’s smarter than the rest of the comically clueless flock. He knows they’re all headed for the ax as Thanksgiving nears. But Reggie gets lucky. He becomes the turkey that the president (Jimmy Hayward) pardons. He gets to live at Camp David with the president’s little girl (Kaitlyn Maher) and learns how to order pizza.

Life is good until Reggie is abducted by a big dumb turkey commando named Jake (Woody Harrelson), from the Turkey Freedom Front. The TFF aims to remove turkey from the Thanksgiving menu. Reggie has no desire to fight, but somehow he and Jake land inside a top-secret time machine about to be tested by the military. The machine’s silky-voiced computer S.T.E.V.E. (George Takei) zaps the two birds back to the Plymouth Colony, circa 1621. The wild turkeys of Plymouth are smart. They have a hideout beneath the forest, and they make it tough for the villain, Cmdr. Myles Standish (Colm Meaney), to shoot them.

The Pilgrims are starving and the Thanksgiving feast with the Native Americans happens in a couple of days. Reggie and Jake meet the wild turkey Jenny (Amy Poehler), pretty daughter of turkey Chief Broadbeak (Keith David). The usually nonviolent wild turkeys team up with Reggie and Jake to try to defeat the Pilgrims, but narrowly escape disaster. The Time Machine comes to the rescue.

The film subtly implies the slaughter of modern turkeys, with a farmer carrying one bird by the neck, but we see nothing. Myles Standish’s snarling dogs are scary. Two male wild turkeys fight over Jenny, inflating their chin wattles until they nearly pop. A final battle involves cannon fire, catapulted pumpkins and a blaze that threatens all the turkeys.

“Last Vegas” (PG-13): A little too lewd for middle schoolers, but OK for high schoolers 15 and older, “Last Vegas” may give those older teens a satisfying laugh. The story of four aging guys who grew up together in 1950s Flatbush, Brooklyn, wouldn’t seem to be a natural for teen audiences, but, they have grandparents, right? So watching four ordinary men in their theoretically late ’60s party in Las Vegas could be fun if the men are likable, and these are.

“Last Vegas” has a script full of clichés and clumsily crafted conflict, but actors at the level of Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas and Kevin Kline working together can occasionally lift the script above itself. The film starts with a charming prologue of the friends as kids. Then we cut to now. Billy (Douglas) is the one who got rich, lives in Los Angeles and played the field rather than marry. He gives the eulogy at a friend’s funeral, feels his mortality, and proposes to his 32-year-old girlfriend (Bre Blair) on the spot.

He calls his “Flatbush 4” pals Archie (Freeman) and Sam (Kline) to tell them. They decide to meet Billy in Vegas for a bachelor party and even convince the recently widowed and very depressed Paddy (De Niro) to come, too. Paddy has a long-standing beef with Billy, but he agrees.

The guys have crude nicknames for one another and make a lot of semi-graphic jokes about male and female parts and sex acts. They drink and ogle women in string bikinis who shake their behinds to music or to impress the guys when they judge a bikini contest. The male emcee of the contest also strips to a thong and shimmies in De Niro’s face – a gratuitous moment.

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