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WARNING/PARENTAL HEADS UP: This film is not meant for children. It’s a dark and twisted film with themes of depression, violence, sex, drugs, and humanity. This is not for younger viewers. Viewer’s discretion advised. Enjoy the review!
It’s funny how limiting most moviegoers see animation as a film-making medium. They only see it as a thing for kids and families, and while that can be true, it can be so much more. I have pretty much reviewed a ton of animated films or shows aimed more at an older teen and adult audience, but sadly, those don’t get a lot of traction in Hollywood. Sure, Sausage Party from 2016 showed that it could work, but all that good will was probably thrown out the window when the controversy of the animators being forced to work un-paid overtime was revealed. Animation has no limits, and you can tell any type of story with it. Sure, some limitations are needed to make sure nothing goes too overboard and such, but it’s a medium that’s way more creative, and can be aimed at all audiences. For example, today’s review will be of Birdboy: The Forgotten Children. Directed by Alberto Vazquez and Pedro Rivero, based on the comic by Alberto Vazquez, and distributed by GKids, this 2D animated film was a dark horse among the 2017 animated films. It was much darker and more mature than a lot of the offerings last year that were more comedy-oriented. It didn’t get a huge release, and while it won a couple of awards, I don’t see many people talk about it. I think it’s time for that to change.
Taking place on an island after a nuclear explosion destroys the island, the animal inhabitants’ resort to scavenging and trying to live a life, even if the island they live on is mostly covered in garbage. The story is more about the study of the characters, but there is a plot. It revolves around a mouse girl named Dinky, who is not happy with living with her parents who keep complaining about how she is slipping in her school work, and love her dog brother/thing more. This is on top of her parent’s reliance on “happy pills” and how they suspect that Dinky might be a drug user. Dinky decides to get with two of her friends, get some money, and leave the island. Although Dinky is fine leaving with her two friends, she is also worried about another individual, Birdboy. Birdboy’s story is that his father, who used to run the lighthouse before the explosion wrecked the island, turned to selling drugs and was shot. Birdboy, on the other hand, has been turned into an outcast, and is constantly hunted by the police, due to being accused of selling drugs, when more or less, he takes them. Can Dinky and her friends get off the island? What exactly is going on with Birdboy? Why is he taking the drugs? Why does this film look as if David Lynch made an animated movie?
So, let’s talk about the positive aspect of this film. I’m going to be calling Birdboy the Anomalisa of 2017. Now, why would I be calling it that? It’s because a lot of what makes Birdboy great is the symbolic and psychological nature of the entire film. The film might look innocent and adorable, due to the round designs, but no one is a perfectly okay person. Dinky is a delinquent, one of her friends has supposed schizophrenic thoughts, Dinky’s parents are heavily religious individuals that suffer from depression, Birdboy is a drug-addicted outsider who is suppressing personal violent demons, and the entire rat population, that call themselves “The Forgotten Children”, are violent scavengers that have no problem skinning you for your copper materials. There are multiple layers to dig into with this film, and it is not subtle at showing that a couple of the characters in this film have personal demons that can manifest themselves into horrific monsters. Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom, but it’s definitely a depressing world. Thankfully, you care about the characters, since while some have major issues, they do have humanity to them. The movie basically says that not everyone is inherently evil or a monster.
Birdboy probably has the most interesting animation out of any film from this year. I think it’s quite obvious from my comments above that the world the characters live in is very misleading. The round innocent designs clash, and make the much darker sequences pop, making them way more effective. If everything was just grizzly from the beginning, then the effect of certain scenes and characters wouldn’t be as powerful as they are with the more child-friendly designs. I know some say that this type of misconception can lead to it backfiring on the film, but the animation works extremely well. It has designs that are almost similar to ones you would find in Adventure Time, and that franchise has plenty of mature and dark moments. I was never taken out of the experience due to the animation, and I think that’s something worth mentioning, since if this was handled by anyone else, it would have probably been a disaster. I saw this with the English dub, and while the English trailer for the film may make some lines look weird in terms of syncing with the clips, it was pretty good all-around in the actual film.
If I had to nitpick or criticize this film for anything, it would be that it might go too symbolic with everything. Due to the 75-minute runtime, I found myself noticing the film liked to be a bit more abstract than a little more logical, but even by saying this, I’m staying on the back of my heels. I say this because this might be one of those films you will need to see twice. I know that sounds like I’m excusing elements that might just be bad storytelling, but at the same time, seeing a film twice would probably help in some cases.
In general, I can tell Birdboy: The Forgotten Children is a film that will be splitting people down the middle. It’s beautifully animated, emotionally poignant, and wonderfully atmospheric and dark. Though the story and how it is executed is definitely going to be the part where you like it or not, some will like the dark nature and symbolic elements, but I can see that alienating other viewers as well. Still, if you can somehow watch this movie, definitely do so. It’s a unique film that I wouldn’t mind supporting. Since we are on a GKids run, it’s time to keep that going with their most recent offering, Mary and the Witch’s Flower. Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time!
Rating: Go see it!