Directed by Jean-Loup Felicioli, Alain Gagnol
Written by Alain Gagnol
Starring (Original/English) Edouard Baer/Jared Padalecki, Gaspard Gagnol/Marcus D’Angelo, Jean-Pierre Marielle/Vincent D’Onofrio, Jackie Berroyer/Vincent D’Onofrio, Audrey Tautou/Melissa Disney
I’m a big fan of animated films, and this is definitely a golden age for the art. I also like to seek out films that are outside the beaten path. While the US and Japan are the places where most of the best animation is made, there are pockets in other countries. France, for instance. They produced The Painting, and, more recently, Phantom Boy.
It introduces two characters. Alex (Jared Padalecki*) is a detective who is always getting in trouble when things fall apart around him. In trouble with his boss, he runs into a couple of criminals and their mastermind/leader The Face (Vincent D’Onofrio) on the verge of committing a major crime. Alex has his leg broken, and his boss doesn’t believe him, so he ends up in the hospital, unable to do anything. There he meets Leo (Marcus D’Angelo), a boy who is sick with a serious disease and who has a strange power: he can leave his body and his phantom version can travel around town. Meanwhile, Mary (Melissa Disney**), a reporter, is interested in Alex’s story. When the Face threatens New York City, Leo and Alex team up with Mary to thwart his plans.
This is a traditionally animated film that avoids being flashy. The images, while well done, really exist to carry the story along. But the strength of the movie is in its characters. The Face makes a great supervillain*** and the relationship between the three main characters is strong and natural. Leo follows Mary and relays what he sees to Alex, who then tells Mary about them on his cell phone. Mary never understands how that happens until the end..
The movie has a charming sensibility and a sense of humor that makes it all the more watchable. It manages to balance the crime story (with a hint of superherodom) with strong characterization and a love story.
It’s available on Netflix as of this writing.
*In the dubbed version. I’ll be listing the US voice actors from now on.
**Yes, a relation (a distant one).
***His name come from the fact that he looks like a cubist painting. One of the nicer things of the movie is that he’s always interrupted when he’s about to explain why he looks that way.