It is a great time to be an animation fan! Not only are major studios producing tremendous work like Zootopia, Kubo and the Two Strings and Finding Dory but smaller indy films are there to dazzle us! We already had April and the Extraordinary World earlier in the year and today I want to talk about Phantom Boy. From the creators of A Cat in Paris (which I love), Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol give us a lovely little 2D animated film with tons of humor and heart.
Like I said, I love A Cat in Paris, and while I don’t think Phantom Boy is quite as good as that film it is still a very enjoyable effort. It may even be the best superhero movie of 2016!
In New York there is a boy named Leo who is very sick.
But Leo like all superheroes has a special ability. He can float out of his body passing through walls and flying through the city of New York. This is freeing for him as it is his only respite from his sickbed. You feel a sense of calmness and lightness of being when Leo leaves his body. It’s hard on his body to leave but worth it because of the freedom he experiencces.
At the hospital Leo meets a cop named Alex who is recovering from an incident he had with a mob boss known as The Man with the Broken Face. Leo gets to know Alex and eventually offers his superpower to help track down Broken Face. This is important because Alex’s boss won’t listen to any of his ideas or intuition about the case. Leo can be the invisible spy in the investigation!
Broken Face is also not as scary as the mob boss in A Cat in Paris. He’s more silly here but the comedy worked. I laughed quite a bit. I particularly liked anything to do with Broken Face’s dog and his needing to feed and take care of him. You never think about Marlon Brando walking his dog in The Godfather after all! Ha!
The final character is a woman named Mary who is a journalist who works with Leo and Alex in the investigation. She is probably the character that gets in the most peril for the investigation as she can leave the hospital in her normal body. She’s strong but not too brave.
I think the main difference between A Cat in Paris and Phantom Boy is the character development. I really felt for the Mother in Cat and the twist with the burglar worked for me. The characters didn’t behave the way I thought they would. Also, like I said, the mob boss there was a lot more menacing than Broken Face is here, but he still has his scary moments. However, the characters in Phantom Boy are still good. I really liked the bond that grows between Alex and Leo. It felt like a genuine friendship. With Leo being sick it definitely pulls at the heartstrings a bit and Broken Face with his goons made me laugh.
As you can tell from the images Phantom Boy is gorgeous to look at and at under 90 minutes I don’t think anyone will be bored. The reason Leo’s story works when many superhero stories haven’t this year is there is heart behind his powers. He wants freedom from his hospital bed and the power is a result of that yearning. It’s not for ego or some burden. Quite the reverse actually. It’s a gift that frees him from his unhappy life at the hospital and it just so happens it can be useful in taking down a bad man. Shouldn’t more superhero movies be like that? I certainly think so!
The US dubbing is also great featuring Fred Armisen, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jared Padalecki, Marcus D’angelo, Melissa Disney and Dana Snyder. It feels seamless and I don’t think someone would know it has been dubbed if they weren’t aware of it.
If you can find Phantom Boy at a theater near you check it out. If not, put it on your must watch list when it comes out on DVD. It’s funny, sweet and beautiful to look at. Something the entire family can enjoy watching together that doesn’t try to teach a message or sermonize but just tell a good superhero story about an 11 year old who is the Phantom Boy!
Overall Grade- A-