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Tito and the Birds

Reviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 02/07/19 16:29:58

"High Flying Birds"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

There is no doubt that this weekend will find millions of parents taking their children to the multiplex to go see “The LEGO Movie 2” and I have no problem with that—it is smart, funny, visually dynamic and manages to live up to the expectations set by its equally impressive predecessor. That said, here is hoping that a few of those parents will realize that it will almost certainly be around for a few weeks and instead elect to take the kids to “Tito and the Birds,” a new animated feature from Brazil that may not feature characters that will turn up on T-shirts and video games but which does tell a story that will engage both younger and older viewers alike.

As the story begins, we learn of a mysterious disease that has struck Brazil that finds its victims literally paralyzed by their fears to the point where they are physically transformed into rock-like blobs. Stoking all this fear, by the way, is a conservative-leaning TV network (one guess which one it is meant to represent) that spews out constant reports of rampant crime and terror that are seemingly interrupted only by commercials for gated communities where people can pay exorbitant prices to escape their fears. (Of course, both the network and the real estate are owned by the same guy.) Our hero is Tito, a ten-year-old boy whose scientist father believed that birds held the secret to overcoming this affliction and was working on a machine to reestablish communication with them when he disappeared following an accident. Pedro, as it turns out, has followed in his footsteps with a machine of his own devising and, with the help of some friends (including a pigeon), he tries to get it up and working before the fear sickness winds up overwhelming everything.

Okay, so perhaps ‘Tito and the Birds” is not the most subtle movie around in regards to the overt political allegory at its center. And yet, what it may lack in nuance is more than made up for in potency as it forms the basis of a story will hit home for most viewers with an impact that they usually do not get from the majority of recent animated films. Even better, the uncommonly smart story on display—one that viewers of all ages should have no problem grasping—is equalled by the striking visual style that it employs throughout. Combining the distinct looks of digital animation and oil paintings, the look of this film has a warm vibrancy to it that sets it apart from most films of its type. There is not a single frame here that I can recall that could not be put on a wall and regarded as fine art and some of the visuals—such as the moment when we watch as the pigeon’s song revives one of the sick people—are so startlingly gorgeous that they will take your breath away.

Despite my earlier wish, I am fully aware that relatively few families will be going out this weekend to go see “Tito and the Birds”—it is only getting an arthouse release and the notion of a subtitled family movie may seem a bit strange to some. For those not willing to take that gamble, may I suggest instead that you jot down the title and keep and eye out for when it eventually turns up on DVD. Though it will lose a little bit of it visual luster when seen in a home setting, the story will still compel kids and adults alike and the environment will be a little more conducive for explaining details if the need arises. Trust me, it is worth the effort because this is the kind of gently wonderful film that a young viewer will remember for years to come.

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