You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Birdboy: The Forgotten Children’

This arresting Spanish animated feature, adapted from Alberto Vazquez's graphic novel, offers a complex tonal and conceptual mix of a type that’s not for children,

Alberto Vazquez, Pedro Rivero
Voices: Andrea Alzuri, Eba Ojanguren, Josu Cubero, Felix Arkarazo, Jorge Carrero, Nuria Marin, Josu Varela, Jon Goiri, Maribel Legarreta, Nuria Marin, Iker Diaz, Juan Carlos Loriz, Kepa Cueto, Josu Diaz, Jon Goiri, Monica Erdocia, Ramon Barea, Paco Sagarzazu, Enrique San Francisco. (Spanish dialogue.)
Release Date:
Dec 15, 2017

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5004766/

Cute anthropomorphic critters deal with some less-than-adorable issues — like depression, murder, environmental disaster, and general hopelessness — in “Psychonauts, The Forgotten Children” (rechristened “Birdboy” for U.S. release). This arresting Spanish animated feature, adapted by co-directors Alberto Vazquez and Pedro Rivero from the former’s graphic novel, offers a complex tonal and conceptual mix of a type that’s not for children, and has crept into print comics for some years now, but seldom surfaces onscreen. Sardonic, cruel, funny, macabre, yet surprisingly good-hearted, this bizarre adventure won’t fit into standard commercial theatrical slots for animated features. But deserved critical and fan support should eventually guide it to its niche audience.

Vazquez and Rivero have collaborated before, notably on 2011’s Goya-winning “Birdboy,” which can now stand as a 12-minute prologue to the equally impressive feature. After recapping that short’s events briefly (an industrial catastrophe kills much of an isolated island’s population, reducing the survivors to various forms of desperation, violence, and poverty in their devastated environment), “Psychonauts” finds the same characters several years along, no longer children but angsty adolescents.

The mute, skeletal outcast Birdboy is still viewed as a community threat for no obvious reason. His erstwhile semi-girlfriend Dinky is a mouse unhappy in her home, where she endures the endless petty disapproval of her religious-hysteric mother, adoptive father, and ill-tempered “brother” (a barking dog in a Santo-style mask). She decides to run away with Birdboy, as well as her best/only friends Zorrit (a timid, bullied fox) and Sandra (a rabbit plagued by literal demons who urge her toward evil deeds). But for that they’ll need money, so they break into an off-limits house to steal from Pig Boy and his bedridden mother, whose apparent drug addiction is in fact itself a sort of demonic possession. A narrow escape from that den of misery hardly ends the young protagonists’ travails, which extend to their near-fatal abduction by a roving pack of glue-sniffing thug rats who zealously guard imagined hidden “treasures” in the vast dump they claim as territory.

Notable peripheral figures include black marketeer Tito Klaus; two macho “police dogs” who frequently try to gun down the hapless Birdboy; Mr. Reloggio, a comically naif robot alarm clock whose blundering into the outside world courts more grotesque abuses than the Marquis de Sade’s Justine; and frightening “Psychobirds” who appear to be Birdman’s supernatural tormentors, yet finally emerge as the secret strength of his internal rage.

You know “Psychonauts” is subversive stuff early on, in a jolting bad-taste humor moment when Dinky’s parents deploy a Baby Jesus doll to vividly illustrate their disappointment in her behavior. Packing a slim running time with ideas and incident, Vazquez and Rivero’s film does a remarkable job juggling seemingly discordant elements within an already weird framework of fey post-apocalyptic cartoon. It’s by turns caustic, rude, bleak, surreal, and violent, leavened by genuine compassion for characters that have a surprising depth of pathos for all their deliberately simple, “cute” line-drawing appearances. (Backgrounds are by contrast rich and painterly.)

The unpredictable yet somehow organic constant tonal tilts, abetted by the film’s diverse mix of visual influences, pulls off a matter-of-fact overall approach to abject tragedy. This gets its starkest illustration in the brief foregrounding of a minor subplot, when one starving, indigent father-and-son duo wearily engage in mortal combat with another pair in precisely the same straits.

Though at first glance this ironically-sweet-and-very-sour mix might seem unappetizing, even repellent, it soon becomes fascinating in its oddball complexity. Among the many vastly more expensive, live-action dystopian visions of recent cinema, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything as original or surprisingly poignant as “Psychonauts.”

Film Review: 'Birdboy: The Forgotten Children'

Reviewed at Fantasia Film Festival, July 23, 2016. (Also in San Sebastian, Annecy Intl. Animated Film Festivals.) Running time: 76 MIN. (Original title: “Psiconautas, los niños olvidados”)

Production: (Animated — Spain) A ZircoZine Animation, Basque Films production, in co-production with Abrakam Estudio, La Competencia. (International sales: Basque Films, Bilbao.) Producers: Farruco Castroman, Carlos Juarez, Luis Tosar. Executive producers: Castroiman, Juarez. Co-producers: Pedro Rivero, Cesar Rodriguez, Inigo Perez Tabernero.

Crew: Directors: Alberto Vazquez, Pedro Rivero. Writer: Vazquez, Rivero, based on the graphic novel “Psiconautas” by Vazquez. (Color, HD) Editor: Ivan Minambres.

With: Voices: Andrea Alzuri, Eba Ojanguren, Josu Cubero, Felix Arkarazo, Jorge Carrero, Nuria Marin, Josu Varela, Jon Goiri, Maribel Legarreta, Nuria Marin, Iker Diaz, Juan Carlos Loriz, Kepa Cueto, Josu Diaz, Jon Goiri, Monica Erdocia, Ramon Barea, Paco Sagarzazu, Enrique San Francisco. (Spanish dialogue.)

More Film

  • Xavier Legrand Custody

    Xavier Legrand's 'Custody' Wins Best Film at 44th Cesar Awards

    Xavier Legrand’s feature debut “Custody,” a tense portrait of a family torn by domestic violence, won best film, actress (for Lea Drucker), original screenplay at the 44th Cesar Awards, which took place at the Salle Pleyel in Paris. The awards are France’s highest film honors. “Custody,” which marks Legrand’s follow up to his Oscar-nominated short, [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    'Crazy Rich Asians,' 'Late Show With Stephen Colbert' Win Publicity Campaign Awards

    Hollywood publicists have selected “Crazy Rich Asians” as the top movie publicity campaign for 2018 and “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” as the best television campaign. Warner Bros.’ “Crazy Rich Asians” topped the campaigns for Disney’s “Black Panther,” Fox’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Paramount’s “A Quiet Place,” Sony’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” and Universal’s “Halloween” for [...]

  • How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes

    How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes Sports and Showbiz in a Entertaining Mix

    Walking through the El Segundo studio where veteran sportscaster Rich Eisen tapes his daily “Rich Eisen Show,” the sheer density of sports memorabilia is overwhelming — everything from game balls to jerseys, gear, autographs and uncountable photos are crammed onto every inch of wall and desk space. But step into Eisen’s dressing room, and the [...]

  • Tessa Thompson Nnamdi Asomugha

    Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha to Star in 'Sylvie'

    Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha are set to star in the feature film “Sylvie.” Eugene Ashe has written the screenplay and will direct with production currently underway. More Reviews Album Review: Lil Pump's 'Harverd Dropout' Berlin Film Review: 'Stitches' The film is described as a love story set in the cool jazz era of New York [...]

  • Night Fury dragon Toothless and Hiccup

    Box Office: 'How to Train Your Dragon 3' Soaring to $50 Million-Plus Launch

    “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” is soaring toward a $53 million launch weekend at 4,259 North American locations, early estimates showed on Friday. That estimate is well above Universal’s forecast in the $40 million range at 4,259 sites — and ahead of its predecessors, 2010’s “How to Train Your Dragon,” which made [...]

  • Actors With Disabilities Deserve a Hollywood

    Dreaming of a Hollywood Ending for Actors With Disabilities (Guest Column)

    Picture a world in which an actor with a disability wins an Academy Award. Sadly, that storyline remains no more than a Hollywood fantasy. In recent years, the #OscarsSoWhite trending hashtag campaign has shed light on the lack of diversity in the movie industry. Yet ahead of this year’s Oscars on Feb. 24, society’s definition [...]

  • Clark Gable III

    Clark Gable's Grandson, Who Hosted 'Cheaters,' Found Dead at 30

    Clark Gable’s grandson, Clark Gable III, died on Friday morning at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, Variety confirmed with the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Office. He was 30. “It’s is with an extremely heavy heart we say goodbye to my beautiful son Clark,” his mother wrote on Instagram. “He passed this morning. I will always [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content