Rated PG. Running time: 1 hour 24 min.
Our content ratings (1-10): Violence 2; Language 1; Sex/Nudity 1.
Our star rating (1-5): 4
Evil brings death to the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
Directors Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol (the latter also wrote the screenplay) offer a nice, old-fashioned alternative to CGI animated films. The somewhat simplified 2-D images are artistically unlike other such films currently in release. . Set in Manhattan, the plot and characterization also are old fashioned, so simple that they could have come out of a Dick Tracy or Batman comic.
Leo (Gaspard Gagnol) is an eleven year-old boy who loves reading to his little sister Titi (Noa Bernaoui-Savreux. When he is struck by a life-threatening illness, he is taken to the hospital and subjected to chemo or radiation treatment. We assume that his malady is some form of cancer because of his shaved head. He discovers that he can escape the confines of his bed and room by floating out of his body and flying through the air. During such times he comes across the spirits of other patients, and when their “juice” weakens, he helps them find their way back to their bodies. Leo also has this need to return, lest he fade away into nothingness. While away he can communicate through his body to anyone close by.
In the same hospital is NYPD Lt. Alex (Édouard Baer), in with a broken leg after two mobsters had attacked him on the waterfront. The dim-witted thugs work for The Man With the Broken Face (Marielle/D’Onofrio), who calls himself The King of New York. He has hacked into every computer system that keeps New York operating, planting a powerful bug that will destroy the programs, thus bringing chaos to the city. He has contacted the Mayor and demanded 1 billion dollars as ransom.
Alex knows the approximate location of the villain’s hideout, but because he has created some havoc during his past police work, his boss refuses to even listen to him. After Leo’s phantom encounters that of the cop’s one night, Alex remembers that they had met. The boy is surprised that his new friend remembers him because the other patients whose phantoms he had helped did not—and thus begins a partnership in which Leo’s spirit is able to help the wheelchair-bound cop find the villain before the deadline set for the destruction of the city’s grid. Joining them is the intrepid reporter Mary (Audrey Tautou), who finds herself in as much peril as Lois Lane.
Other than the age-old Good vs. Evil theme, the film lacks the social relevance of such children’s films as Zootopia, but it is almost as much fun. The animation, some of it seemingly influenced by Picasso, will appeal to adults, though the simple story line is mainly an escapist diversion. But then, we can all benefit from escapism when a film is as well crafted as this one.
This review with a set of discussion questions will be in the September issue of VP.
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