Creative duo behind the Oscar nominated ‘A Cat in Paris’, Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol provide us with a mesmerisingly touching narrative, with their latest feature Phantom Boy. This animated fantasy is raw; it isn’t clean cut like Pixar or Aardman even – what we have here is an angular, pop-art surreal quality giving this crime fuelled tale the edge it needs.
Phantom Boy gets straight into it, with a moving opening act as we see Leo (Marcus D’Angelo) saying goodbye to his family as he heads off for experimental cancer treatment. Despite being riddled with disease, this boy harbours a very special power which allows him to leave his body, floating free around the city and wherever he wants to go. There is an eerie Burton-esque feel about this supernatural story – Ghibli meets Disney in a wholehearted way.
This young boy gets to experience something magnificent; alleviating the devastating truth at hand. Instead of worrying about this condition, the boy flies around, helping people get by, but the sad reality is that the people he visits can’t remember what he did for them when they wake up the next day. Except for Alex (Jared Padalecki) – a New York cop who narrowly escaped a robbery with a broken leg. Of course, with such a gift everything comes with a price and that price for Leo is that he will fade away if he spends too much time out of his body.
When the city is placed under threat from anarchist baddie called ‘The Face’ (Vincent D’Onofrio), a sketchy character, complete with his cute, fluffy dog prone to tantrums sidekick; Alex feels hopelessly confined to his hospital bed, despite knowing where to find this villain and stop him from taking over the city. As political stand points arise, the city is in chaos and it’s down to Leo to be Alex’s eyes and ears on the ground in order to save his journalist girlfriend Mary, and ultimately win this battle before a computer virus hacks every system in New York.
Phantom Boy is fast paced, flipping between the cop and gangster plot-lines in a rapid fashion. A clear and clever tactic to keep young children seated and their ever learning minds occupied. Yet there is also more than enough for the adults in the audience to bite off and chew – perhaps one or two will find it hard to fight back the tears at times, as well as the chortles which will undoubtedly escape on occasion.
This is so much more than a kid’s film – this deals with real threats to humanity, whilst having fun at the same time. Phantom Boy is a tantalisingly heart-warming experience that provides much sentimentality which hopefully both children and adults will be able to take something from.