Gabriel Bitar, André Catoto, and Gustavo Steinberg’s animated Tito and the Birds is the sort of movie that puts its subtext right there on the top, but that’s OK because the top is very lovely. In present-day Brazil, 10-year-old Tito (Pedro Henrique) is the son of disappeared scientist Rufus (Matheus Nachtergaele), whose unfinished machine may hold the key to defeating a strange, possibly manufactured pandemic. Against the orders of his fear-stricken mother Rosa (Denise Fraga), Tito and his school friend Sara (Marina Serretiello) set out to complete his father’s work and, hopefully, save the world from itself.
Beyond the aviary similarities in their titles, the children-in-a-dystopia theme of Tito and the Birds raises the specter of the far superior and much darker Birdboy, but Tito is saddled by a fairly rote story. The picture’s real draw is the way it combines a naturalistic, brushstroke-heavy animation style — think Loving Vincent, without the rotoscoping — with a very modern-day world of social media, fake news, and characters using their cell phones as flashlights. Tito and the Birds also feels like it could have been done as an anime without much change to the story, but thank goodness it wasn’t, because it means Sara gets to wear a dress that goes below her knees.
Not rated. Opens Friday at the Opera Plaza Cinema.