I watch a lot of terrible movies at the behest of this newspaper. Shuddersome movies. Movies that no rational person—let alone a self-respecting film editor—would ever presume the circulation of this paper to have any interest in. Underdog. Alvin and the Chipmunks 2: The Squeakuel. Last Vegas. In the newspaper biz, we refer to these particular areas of specialization as “beats”; in the weather-beaten recesses of my psyche, I call it my “cross to bear.”

But why? Why have my shrewd and insightful musings been exclusively relegated to the Mercury’s celluloid dustbin? The answer to this question is a little complicated, but the short of it is, God blessed me with merely two gifts in this life: the ability to sit silently in the dark for extended periods of time, and complaining. I am like the Michael Jordan of sitting silently in the dark, and the Kerri Strug of complaining. Suffice to say, this skill set has a surprisingly limited list practical of applications. Enter Mercury Film Editor Erik Henriksen, who—having longed regarded me with pity (but not respect—never respect)—charitably continues to apply my unique powers to the worst garbage imaginable. (Also of note: I have it on good authority that—due to a handful of personal and political missteps not particularly suitable for publication—Mercury Editor-in-Chief Wm. Steven Humphrey has begun running an office pool in anticipation of my psychological collapse.) It’s in this spirit of benevolence that Mr. Henriksen has allowed me the opportunity to share some thoughts about terrible cinema in this new Blogtown feature, Movie Masochist.

Let us begin. With Free Birds.

FREE BIRDS A film made for children, because children are super dumb.
  • FREE BIRDS A film made for children, because children are super dumb.

On the spectrum of terrible movies—a field where, even on their own terms, children's movies maintain a considerable monopoly—Free Birds is, at its worst, really only moderately unwatchable. The plot is essentially inconsequential, but for the uninitiated: Two turkeys with amiable Southern drawls (Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson) time travel to 17th century Massachusetts in an effort to undo Thanksgiving history and save their species from its annual genocide. Unambiguous holiday smash-and-grab that it is, Free Birds does its job dutifully: it keeps its gag volume dense, it doesn't fuck around with exposition or coherence, and mostly reigns in the parent-pandering, pop culture non-sequiturs that usually derail these meticulous digital monstrosities.

It’s also packed with the sort of vague, self-satisfied liberal propaganda that seems to populate every children’s movie nowadays: from the obvious animal rights implications—including an explicit denouncement of factory farming—to a slightly more coded socialist agenda (the protagonists, for example, unite under the guise of the “Turkey Freedom Front”). From Wall-E to Happy Feet to Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2, the threat of explicit liberal indoctrination in kid’s movies has come a long way since they up and shot Bambi’s mom (sadface emoticon).

Which isn’t to say that I take issue with it—it’s warm and it’s fuzzy and suits my self-satisfied liberal perspective just fine. It’s just a curiously escalating phenomenon that—coupled with the near ubiquity of fast food tie-ins (Free Birds has wisely/weirdly teamed with Chuck E. Cheese, because who fucking knows about their politics), corporate double-dealings, and nefarious parent companies—has me wondering where exactly these filmmakers’ objectives lie. Are Prius-leasing, Silicon Valley liberals quietly brainwashing our pre-pubescent populace with a message of radical environmentalism? Are touchy-feely, liberal politics so soft-headed that they’re simply the only language that can be communicated to children? Or is it that a progressive agenda is just simply more profitable? Whatever the case, it’s no wonder most conservatives seem like schizophrenic prairie dogs—if I were a conservative parent, my kids would only be allowed to watch Duck Tales and those Atlas Shrugged movies. Fortunately for conservatives (and unfortunately for the rest of us), children are super dumb—like goldfish dumb—and invariable forget that the Lorax spoke for something other than movie theater nachos the moment they leave the building. For Hollywood, it’s a win-win: they get their chance to decry unbridled industrialism just long enough for the message to seep out of their audiences’ other ear—ensuring an endless, unquestioned cycle of capitalism masquerading as progressive doctrine.

So anyway, Free Birds: probably don’t go see it.