When you start to talk about animated films, your mind probably jumps to the likes of Pixar and Disney. Yet there's a whole other world out there - starting with Studio Ghibli and continuing out toward the horizon. As the genre flourishes by blending entertainment for adults and children, there are some true works of art being released. Collaborators Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol (creators of the Oscar-nominated 'A Cat In Paris') have crafted something unparalleled with 'Phantom Boy' - with the heart and morals of a Pixar movie and the breathtaking beauty of a Ghibli film.
11-year-old Léo (Gaspard Gagnol) must go into hospital to undergo tests for the cancer he is suffering from. However, he has a secret - since getting sick, he has been able to leave his body and travel around the city. In hospital, he meets a wheelchair-bound police officer named Alex (Edouard Baer, 'Les invincibles') who is trying to foil the evil plot of a sinister man with a broken face (Jean-Pierre Marielle, 'The Da Vinci Code'). With the help of journalist Mary (Audrey Tautou, 'Thérèse Desqueyroux', 'Amelie') and Léo's watchful eye, they try to stop this criminal from destroying New York City - but will Alex's relentless pursuit of the case put Mary and Léo in mortal danger?
Although a seemingly surreal story, there is something incredibly realistic about this film. Perhaps it's the no-nonsense approach to the phantom state, the very upfront way Léo's illness is treated, or the extremely solid vocal performances. All of these elements come together so beautifully, accompanying the stunning and distinctive hand-drawn noir animation style. The film effortlessly blends genres, incorporating elements of crime, fantasy, comedy and drama; it also grows into a surprisingly tense thriller as the team closes in on the villain.
There's a great warmth to the film, with the animation splashed with bright colours and the relationships that develop over the course of the story. There's also a wealth of humour scattered throughout, from the most ferociously tiny dog portrayed in cinema to Alex's aloof yet endearing personality. In the end, this detective and superhero comic book-influenced tale can be distilled to the simple message of good versus evil. It's all brought together with a harmonious 'Donnie Darko'-esque score from Serge Besset, a light, piano-possessed composition blended with children's choirs which provides a perfect ethereal feel.
There's a great warmth to the film, with the animation splashed with bright colours.
I haven't seen an animation this affecting since 'Big Hero Six' - and Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol are proving themselves to be a powerhouse of a special kind of animation. While it's a film designed for kids, it's sure to be as equally loved by adults with its charm and allure. 'Phantom Boy' will give you shivers, but in the best possible way.