Birdboy: The Forgotten Children - Blu-ray Review

Michael Scott

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Birdboy: The Forgotten Children


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Movie: :3.5stars:
Video: :4stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :2.5stars:
Final Score: :3.5stars:



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Movie

Gkids has always been one of the more prolific studios for putting out cutting edge animated films. They’ve worked in tandem with Studio Ghibli from Japan, they’ve worked with all sorts of differing nations to bring in foreign animation to our shores, and their work usually speaks for itself. Shout Factory has been teaming up with them more and more in recent years, and the steady flow of films from them has been a boon to lovers of high quality animation. Academy award nominee, The Breadwinner, was the last one I was able to review from them, and it was nothing short of excellent, so I was a bit excited to see Birdboy: The Forgotten Children. A dystopian filled nightmare, Birdboy was not exactly what I was expecting. I knew that the film would a bit darker than your average movie about talking animals, but I was completely unprepared for what was to follow.

Birdboy is NOT a cute kids movie. In fact, I wouldn’t show this to young children at all (kids over the age of 13 may be the exception), as it is a bleak and brutal fantasy story that acts as a vehicle for strong allegory. We’re introduced to several young talking animals off the bat, including Birdboy (a black suit wearing boy, who with the head of a bird), Dinky (a mouse who lives with a religious fanatic for a mother, and a creepy stepfather), Sandra is tormented by voices in her head, and their friend Little Fox is bullied by the bigger animals. The home that they live on seems to have been torn apart by some sort of industrial, or nuclear, disaster. Birdboy is left without a home as his family lighthouse is now infested by demonic birds, and he uses drugs to keep the nightmares and birds at bay from tearing him apart. The rest of the island suffers along under a guise of “normalcy”, which involves taking “happy pills”. A necessity to keep themselves “happy”, and an umbrella that the younger generation are only too happy to leave behind. Trigger happy cops (portrayed by barking dogs) shoot everything that they deem a threat, while hunting down Birdboy for the crimes of father.
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A young pig boy has to deal with the drug addiction of his mother, who is represented by a spider that grows louder and large the more she injects into her veins, and each and every one of these young folks suffer their own internal demons and problems (even the rookie police dog, who struggles with the brutality of his commanding officer). While it may seem bizarre on the surface, you have no idea what awaits you within. Birdboy is an incredibly visual film, with a horrorscape of colors and pain. Lest you think that this is an effort in bleak wallowing suffering, there are several humor points throughout the film. Including a talking piggy bank, a duck life boat, and the morbid humor of the overly faux religious parents of Dinky.

I mentioned that the film is an allegory, and that is probably the most precise way of describing Birdboy. The main story is pretty much a throwaway, as it is just a vehicle for the creators to discuss drug addiction, the pain of living under an oppressive family, as well as the over arching premise of totalitarianism in today’s society (especially since Pedro Rivero and Alberto Vazquez hail from Spain, which is suffering under those societal elements as we speak). The anthropomorphic tale is dark, brutal, and compelling at the same time. The only problem stems from the fact that the allegorical nature of the film sometimes gets out of hand. By that I mean we see all of these strange tales and dark sequences, but only SOME of them make 100% sense. It honestly could be due to the fact that I’m not seeing where Vazquez and Rivero are coming from, but the film meanders just a little bit. Especially when it relates to Birdboy himself. As such, this is my most conflicted Gkids film as of late, being that I both loved and disliked portions of the film.




Rating:

Not Rated by the MPAA




Video: :4stars:
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Shout Factory’s 1.85:1 AVC encoded Blu-ray looks really really good on home video. The animation is a bit strange, taking a while to get used to, but the detailed art work soon becomes one of the biggest draws of the film. The dark and brooding landscape is bathed in reds and other deeply saturated watercolors. The post apocalyptic nature of the island gives it that “nuclear waste” style red, interspersed with deep blacks, and some neon shades of green (for the fire) as well as rustic browns and the like. I did notice some banding here and there (mostly in the night shots), and in the scene where Birdboy saves his friends it got really noticeable, but usually it’s never too intrusive or aggressive.






Audio: :4stars:
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Birdboy: The Forgotten Children is given a 5.1 DTS-HD MA lossless track in both the original Spanish language, but in English as well (with English translation subs AND English SDH subs for purists). I really am a fantastic for the original language track, but this is one of the few times where I begrudgingly have to give props to the English dub. I felt it captured the heart and soul of the film a little bit better (I can’t even believe I said that) and was the one of the two that I gravitated towards after comparing them side by side. Sonically, they are both about the same, with strong vocal representation and and good use of the surrounds. Gunshots ring out with authority, and the oppressive sounds of flames mixed with the intense score creates the sensation of deep dread and immersion in the sound field. LFE is powerful and deep, adding weight to many scenes, and filling out the score with a throbbing baseline that, once again, intensifies the feeling of dread and oppression throughout the film.







Extras: :2.5stars:
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• Interview with the Filmmakers
• Birdboy Original Short Film
• Decorado Short Film by Alberto Vázquez
• Theatrical Trailer











Final Score: :3.5stars:


Birdboy is a fascinatingly dark and allegorical film. While I knew it wasn’t going to be a kid’s film, I never truly expected the film to be this dark and bleak. The allegory is pretty simple, yet complex at the same time. However, I do have mixed reactions to the movie. Much of it is utterly fantastic with the allegorical take on human struggle, but so much of it was inaccessible to general audiences as well. So much so that it even left me a little bit cold towards the film. I would love it one second, then be wondering what the director’s were getting at the next. Even after watching multiple times I STILL have a hard time resonating with sections of the movie. It’s a wonderfully brave and innovated film, but one that suffers from being a bit too obtuse at the same time. The Shout Factory releases is excellent, with great video and audio, along with some really nice extras (including the original short film as well). I can’t 100% recommend the movie, but I also have to admit that this is a personal taste film. You may easily get more out of it than I did, and as such I really have to recommend seeing it for yourself.




Technical Specifications:

Starring: Tom Hanks, Bruce Dern, Corey Feldman, Carrie Fisher
Directed by: Pedro Rivero, Alberto Vaszquez
Written by: Pedro Rivero, Alberto Vaszquez, Stephanie Sheh, Joe Deasy
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish DTS-HD MA 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, English, Spanish, French
Studio: Shout Factory
Rated: NR
Runtime: 77 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: March 13th, 2018






Recommendation: Intriguing Watch

 
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tripplej

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Thanks for the review. Never heard of this one. Will check it out.
 

Jeff S

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I have to admit that I am not familiar with this type of animation or studio. Your review gave me a great glimpse into a new genre for me. I love animation so this just went on the list of "must-see". Thanks for a thorough review.
 

Asere

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Thanks for the review. The Breadwinner is on Netflix and hopefully this one too one day so I can watch it. I plan on watching The Breadwinner soon.
 

Michael Scott

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Thanks for the review. The Breadwinner is on Netflix and hopefully this one too one day so I can watch it. I plan on watching The Breadwinner soon.

The Breadwinner was a treat. I hope you enjoy it
 
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