Combustible Celluloid
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With: Andrea Alzuri, Eva Ojanguren, Josu Cubero (voices)
Written by: Pedro Rivero, Alberto Vazquez
Directed by: Pedro Rivero, Alberto Vazquez
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: Spanish, with English subtitles
Running Time: 76
Date: 12/15/2017

Birdboy: The Forgotten Children (2017)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Learning to Fly

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This strange, unsettling Spanish animated movie features a trio of adorable characters that may make it seem kid-friendly; it's not — it's nightmare fuel — but it's also quite striking in many ways.

In Birdboy: The Forgotten Children, Dinky, a mouse, wishes to leave her miserable, wasted island home, where the main way to get by is to pick through the junkyard. She has concocted a plan to raise money with her two friends, Sandra (a bunny) and Little Fox, and escape. She wishes to bring her mysterious friend Birdboy with her, but he has been missing lately. It turns out Birdboy is being hunted for reasons having to do with his father, and is also addicted to pills.

Dinky, Little Fox, and Sandra realize that they don't have enough coins to buy their freedom, so they stop and steal money from a fisher-pig and his strange, addicted mother. But as Dinky's chances of leaving grow ever more dim, Birdboy makes a startling discovery. If only he has enough time left to share it with Dinky.

Winner of a Goya Award and based upon a graphic novel, Birdboy: The Forgotten Children is immediately off-putting, given that most viewers are used to seeing cute characters in cute movies, and not anything quite like this dark vision. But once settled in, this surprising effort offers great rewards.

Filmmakers Pedro Rivero and Alberto Vázquez create simplistic but striking images, alternating moments that are disturbing and brutal with other moments that are wondrous and inventive. Nasty, fighting trash-diggers are alternated with a weird, kind little walking alarm clock robot. Images of Birdboy dealing with his addiction are alternated with breathtaking moments of his learning to fly.

Even the darkest moments, such as bird-shaped monsters or inner demons trying to cause chaos, are matched by moments of incredible beauty, light, and hope. Yet, once again, this is only for older teens and up.

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