By Reid Ramsey (May 23, 2016)
A talking cat, a walking house, two Eiffel Towers, and one ultimate serum to make the drinker invulnerable; in most films, these qualities stem from far-off fantasy, but in April and The Extraordinary World these qualities are the natural scientific progression of the world in which April lives. Directed by Christian Desmares and Franck Ekinci and based on the graphic novel by Jacques Tardi, the French film operates under two alternative premises: what if Napoleon never fell from power and what if all the scientists randomly disappeared at the tail end of the industrial age. It’s in this alternate historical timeline that April and her family of scientists try to create the aptly named ultimate serum.
While it’s easy to get caught up discussing the plot of the film, in April and The Extraordinary World, it’s much easier to get wrapped up in the wildly imaginative animation and character detail filling every frame. The hand-drawn animation delivers some of the best non- Studio Ghibli animation since Ernest and Celestine (2013). While the design of the characters is obsessively good, the stand out elements in the film are the characters themselves. Stunning voice work from Angela Galuppo as April, Tony Hale as Darwin the cat, and Tod Fennell as Julius (American version of the film), give tremendous depth to the teenagers and the cat.
The film foregrounds the motivations of all the characters and makes those motivations not only believable but relatable. Several non-human characters, including Darwin, April’s cat, have clear but fascinating ideologies that allow them to gain as much empathy as the human characters.
April and The Extraordinary World also benefits from an optimism that films focused on science sometimes lack. The characters, trapped in a non-progressive, steampunk 1940s France, maintain a confidence in the science that they continually return too. They believe in a world that will be bettered by their scientific advancements and will rid itself of the cycle of evil that had haunted them for the past decades. This is not a 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) brand of science fiction, but it falls much more in line with Brad Bird’s The Iron Giant (1999) and Tomorrowland (2015). The prevailing boy scout optimism, while detrimental to Bird’s Tomorrowland at times, finds its home here in April and The Extraordinary World.
April and The Extraordinary World offers an imaginative, steampunk romp through the streets of France that is an absolute delight throughout the various twists and character moments that drive the film.
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