Free Birds (2013) starts off with an interesting idea. Reggie (voiced by Owen Wilson) is a Thanksgiving turkey pardoned by the president who enjoys his newfound freedom, ordering pizzas and watching TV at Camp David. Suddenly, a "spy" turkey, Jake (voiced by Woody Harrelson), appears and coerces him into a crazy plan. They will steal a government time machine, go back in time to the days of the pilgrims, and prevent turkey from ever being on the Thanksgiving menu. Directed by Jimmy Hayward (Horton Hears a Who!) the movie doesn't go much further with its idea, and it's really only about halfway there in terms of humor or excitement, but it could be a lot worse, and it is the only Thanksgiving-themed animated feature out there. Even if it's not a holiday feast, it still provides a decent amount of festive fun. In a clever touch, George Takei provides the computer voice of the time machine.
The House of Yes
Note: this is another Thanksgiving leftover, but still worth savoring. Based on a play by Wendy MacLeod, The House of Yes (1997) is set in 1983, when Marty Pascal (Josh Hamilton) brings his fiancée Lesly (Tori Spelling) home to meet his supremely dysfunctional family on Thanksgiving. There's his odd mother (Genevieve Bujold) and his fresh-faced younger brother Anthony (Freddie Prinze Jr.), but the center of the house is Marty's twin sister Jackie (Parker Posey), who is obsessed with Jackie Kennedy as well as with her brother. Over the course of a night, a thunderstorm, and several bottles of rum, many old, dark, and twisted family secrets come out, as well as some new ones. There's not much Thanksgiving feasting here, unless you count Ms. Posey's amazing scenery chewing; she's irresistibly, dangerously kooky (she won an acting prize at Sundance). Rachael Leigh Cook plays the young Jackie in flashbacks. It was the debut feature of director Mark Waters (Mean Girls).
The Ice Storm
The Taiwan-born, but decidedly international filmmaker Ang Lee has made films about mismatched partners, tortured souls, and characters displaced within their environments, searching for solace. In The Ice Storm (1997), these elements come together all in one film. Based on the novel by Rick Moody and set in 1973, in an era when husbands and wives were playing at "key parties," a typically cracked family assembles for Thanksgiving. The father (Kevin Kline) is having an affair, the mother (Joan Allen) is having a spiritual crisis, the 14-year-old daughter (Christina Ricci) likes to play sexual games, and 16-year-old son (Tobey Maguire) is sexually inexperienced but obsessed with a pretty girl at his school (Katie Holmes). Lee provides succinct dialogue readings and scenes that sum up great waves of emotions and conflict. Most striking is the ice storm of the title, wherein one of the characters finds himself in awe of, and at odds with, the beautiful, bitter landscape. Sigourney Weaver is magnificent as a woman of many affairs.
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