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Free Bird, A
Gregg Russell's A Free Bird is the Matthew McConaughey of loser comedies; relaxed and self-assured to a fault. Set in Panama City Florida and featuring four stupid but lovable losers, Bird comes across as an American South episode of Trailer Park Boys with much less on its mind and lots more time to get there. Full of easy laughs and situational comedy arising simply out of folks being natural losers, A Free Bird represents a fine way to knock off some brain cells after a hard day's work.
J.T. Broadrick (Russell Comegys also doing a fine job in full-McConaughey mode) is the tile loser, a free bird that ain't really gotta do nothin' for nobody. He's been fired from like 3 jobs in 3 months, and he can't stop stepping out on his long-term girlfriend Tammy (Karen-Eileen Gordon). "What are you gonna do know, J.T.?" It's the question everyone asks him. He's been axed from the Panama City Steakhouse, his car broke down, and he's the epitome of a directionless slacker man-boy, content to skate by on a sheen of beer, cigarettes and easy-goin' charm. So what IS he going to do? How about rob the steakhouse with 3 of his stupidest friends, in order to steal a bunch of meat and sell it on the black market. "Seemed like a good idea at the time ..." mutters J.T., trailing off in a cloud of cigarette smoke.
Not unlike J.T. himself, A Free Bird does a lot of coasting along on charm alone. It's a refreshing take on the screwball comedy. Instead of wringing forced laughs from ever more outrageous situations as is done in franchises like The Hangover, both Russells relax, letting reality take over in long-form scenes. J.T. and crew spend a great deal of time drinking beers and smoking cigarettes in the bar, post-meat-heist, while meantime a fed-up Tammy is in another corner of the bar on a double date with a dude she met checking at the grocery store. Of course Tammy can't stop glancing at J.T., causing her friend to reflect on J.T. versus the new date, "What do you want chopped liver for when you got practically hamburger?"
Things go really wrong of course, as J.T.'s crew haunts grocery stores trying to hawk swiftly thawing steaks. "I got four guys here who want to give you some meat" J.T.'s unhinged friend Jimmy squawks to some dude hanging out by a dumpster. (This leads to the movie's one sour note, a contextually understandable but still jarring use of a gay slur.) But in general, things just continue to chug along contentedly. The laughs come easy, the scenarios crank up to ridiculous - gradually - and everything seems pretty real and groovy. You'd like to hang out with J.T. and maybe even his buddies, though you'd keep one eye on your watch and the other on the door. Comegys and Gordon are both quite ready for Prime Time, though no one here seems to be acting: just a bunch of good old boys having a good time. You will too. Hell, J.T. even learns something by the time the credits roll. Recommended.
A Free Bird flaps your way in a 16 x 9 format for your stolen widescreen TV. It looks just fine for DVD as it stands today. Foreground and mid-ground details are strong, and the image is fairly crisp. Colors are warm and look natural, even if the skin-tones of some of the actors themselves do not. There are plenty of night scenes, with decent detail levels and black levels therein. I didn't notice any glaring compression issues or transfer defects, other than the occasional mild blurring that sometimes happens around the outside contours of a fast moving object (like a person running) as it passes in front of a detailed stationary object like a hedgerow.
Dolby 2.0 Stereo Audio is unimpressive but adequate. Dialog varies in volume, with lots of occasional quiet, Southern muttering from J.T. and Tammy, which will have you pumping up your volume to hear things just right. Once you've got that dialed in you will be OK. Stereo placement of audio elements isn't very flashy, either, but overall, the job is taken care of.
Extras are limited to a Trailer and Scene Selections.
A Free Bird is a bunch of good old boy Southern slackers having a good, relaxed time with beer and cigarettes. They also rob a steakhouse, which isn't the best idea for stupid-cool J.T. to get behind, if he ever wants to get his life together. Easy laughs and no-hurry realism, coupled with great performances from leads Russell Comegys and Karen-Eileen Gordon, mark this as something of a slow-motion, American South version of Trailer Park Boys. If that sounds good to you, you'll dig this. Recommended.