In the interest of full-disclosure, it's my duty to inform you that I received my passes to check out FREE BIRDS from my friends over at CHUCK E. CHEESE'S. While they have a marketing partnership with Relativity Media (the studio behind the film), you really can't blame Chuck and the gang for how their product placement actually appeared in the final film. In fact, while I've seen many jump to discussing some vast pizza conspiracy - after all, this is a movie about time-travelling turkeys seeking to have turkey replaced with pizza on the Thanksgiving menu - I have a feeling that Relativity was actively seeking a pizza partner, and when they locked one in, it was those logos that got slapped upon a few empty boxes - creating what's actually an interesting inaccuracy, but one that's pretty much irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. It's a movie about turkeys... for kids, and the kids that we took sure seemed to enjoy it.
My friend John and I took our four-year-old counterparts (pictured left, they're adorable) to check out a screening of FREE BIRDS this past Saturday, and the kids were excited before we'd even entered the theater. Again, it's talking turkeys. For the next 90 minutes (sans a pair of bathroom breaks), we took part in the communal cinematic experience with our little ones as we shared some popcorn and CARE BEARS Gummi Snacks. What followed was a fun, but far-from-perfect tale of the annual "pardoned" turkey (Reggie - voiced by Owen Wilson) who along with the militant Jake (voiced by Woody Harrelson) set out to get their kind removed from the Thanksgiving menu once and for all. How might they do this, you ask? Well, by hitching a ride in an egg-shaped time machine named "S.T.E.V.E." that sounds suspiciously like George Takei, and even says... "Oh, myyyy." When you're the pardoned turkey, it's not hard to come by a time machine developed by the United States Government, especially when it's located right there at Camp David, the very place you're supposed to be comfortably living out your days.
With a host of nods to BACK TO THE FUTURE and BILL AND TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE, these talking turkey time travelers head back to 1621 to stop the (pretty angry and violent) Pilgrims from serving turkey, and replace it with pizza. Why pizza? Because Reggie, in his short stay at Camp David, happened to catch a pizza commercial on television, made the call, and eventually found himself becoming hooked on the tasty pie. This leads me back to the beginning where I said that the Chuck E. Cheese tie-in led to an inaccuracy: I've never heard of a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant that delivers.
Aside from that, the commercial wasn't for Chuck E Cheese's... the delivery guy has no Chuck gear... and only a few of the countless pizza boxes in the film actually say "CHUCK E. CHEESE'S" on them - even when in a stack of other pizzas. Like I said, I assume that Relativity sought a partner, and when Chuck came into the picture, the animators had just enough time to slap their name on some boxes. And that logo... believe me when I tell you that ALL of the kids in the theater knew it and noticed. Weird marketing and plot holes aside, it's a fun little flick that will no doubt have some life as a seasonal staple around this same time every year when it starts popping up on television in 2014.
THE ROCK FATHER Rating: 2.5/5 Average
Epilogue: The Day After...
After watching Reggie chow down on some pizza, my wife and I took the girls to the local CHUCK E. CHEESE'S on Sunday. They've got the FREE BIRDS "Rock-N-Wristbands," and besides - Addie has been wanting to go for quite awhile. In fact, there's this weird thing that happens when we pick her up at Pre-K: ALL OF THE KIDS ASK THEIR PARENTS TO TAKE THEM TO CHUCK E. CHEESE'S. This is a real phenomenon that happens at 11:30am 2-3 days a week. It's been going on for months, to the point where one of her teachers spoke to me about it.
Growing up, I was always more of a ShowBiz Pizza kid, but it's cool watching my little ones enjoy Chuck E. Cheese's just the same. And hey - Chuck's a friend - and our lunch was on the house!
About James: A work-from-home Dad with a pair of daughters (Released in 2009 and 2012) - James Zahn is THE ROCK FATHER™.
Bringing over two decades of experience in the entertainment industry into the family realm, Zahn is an Illinois-based Entertainment Writer, Media Personality and Commentator.
He serves as a PBS KIDS VIP (Very Involved Parent), has made guest appearances as a member of the Sprout Kindness Crew, was featured in the Father's Day issue of Lake County Magazine, and is a former contributor to Chicago Parent.
Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for the likes of FEAR FACTORY, DIRGE WITHIN, PRODUCT OF HATE, ARCANIUM and others, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands.
James and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, NBC, G4, The Chicago Tribune, Blogcritics, Fangoria, Starlog, The River Cities' Reader. Slowfish, Oil, and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360, and in 2013 he's been quoted on CNN, Babble, The Huffington Post, and The Good Men Project, in addition to making appearances on ABC News and WGN.
Learn more here.