Netflix A-Z reviews will be taking a break as I review the movies that I saw on my flights to and from Vancouver. The selection was pretty decent.
The first that caught my eye was an animated film I wanted to see earlier this year called April and the Extraordinary World, which is originally a French-Belgian-Canadian animated movie and the main character is voiced by Marion Cotillard in its orginal French version. That is definitely a highlight. Plus, French animated films tend to have this dark tone but adds a hint of dark humor that works for me. Perfect example would be one of my faves, Jack and the Cuckoo Clock Heart (review) or The Suicide Shop (review). Still, they hold a unique touch that many animated films don’t often have nowadays.
April and the Extraordinary World (2015)
Director: Christian Desmares & Franck Ekinci
Original French Voice Cast: Marion Cotillard, Philippe Katerine, Jean Rochefort, Olivier Gourmet, Marc-André Grondin, Bouli Lanners,
English Voice Cast: Angela Galuppo, Tony Hale, Tony Robinow, Mark Camacho, Tod Fennell, Paul Giamatti
1941. France asleep in the nineteenth century, governed by steam and Napoleon V, where scientists vanish mysteriously. Avril, a teenage girl, goes in search of her missing scientist parents. – IMDB
April and the Extraordinary World is hard to explain. I don’t mean the plot because they did a great job telling the story and injecting some humor into it. However, despite some silly characters that make them enjoyable and break the serious tone, this animated film is set in a dystopian steampunk world. April has lost her parents and lives by herself with her talking cat. She continues her parents’ and grandfather’s chemistry work to make a serum that will cure illnesses. There somehow holds a strong message about playing God and its consequences.
The characters themselves are well done. However, they are as expected. April amd her talking cat, her parents who hold diverging perspectives on their dedication towards the science they are making and their family’s safety. There is the eccentric grandfather who is actually not as crazy and lost as it seems. However this character’s silliness, while at times a little expected and predictable is a joy to watch. And of course, there is a police officer obsessed with chasing them down because the world has banned scientists and its one of the reasons April and her parents got separated. However, this detective is also quite comedic. On top of that, there is a boy that enters the picture as a kind of mole but then becomes tangled into the mess that April discovers. However, the best character is April’s companion, her cat. He is overly dramatic at times, but also thoughtful and intelligent and the dialogue he is given is done well to make him a simple and genuine character to love.
Another aspect about April and the Extraordinary World is the world creation. The gadgets in this steampunk future gives it a unique touch. From the flying devices to the tone of the France they have created, it is like a depressing yet enchanting experience. The music itself is pretty good. The animation itself and art style of the entire film is unique especially when most animated films have computer graphics influences. This one looks hand drawn and brings us back to a comic book sort of feeling. Its simple but still very nice in the choices in the artistic touches.
Here’s where I’m a little hesitant in saying that April and the Extraordinary World is an outstanding movie. Rotten Tomatoes rates this at 98% fresh. I agree that a lot of the film is done right however, there was a hint of familiarity in this film that seems to pay tribute to a lot of Studio Ghibli films. After some thought, that isn’t a bad thing because they do it great justice especially choosing the steampunk world they did. It helps to create a more unique experience and as always the dialogue is what creates the difference between this perhaps only being influenced by Studio Ghibli but still keeping it its own piece.
All in all, April and the Extraordinary World is a fine animated film. It has many elements that are done right. While it gives off hints of inspiration by a few Studio Ghibli films, it still manages to stay unique with its world and tone. The characters are enchanting and the story engaging enough. It does drag in various parts but the film is a decent length which works in its favor to keep the plot moving forward.
Have you seen April and the Extraordinary World?