Friday, March 25, 2016

Get an Oscar nom ready: Desmares & Ekinci's APRIL AND THE EXTRAORDINARY WORLD

Golly -- here's an animated movie that our own Republican Party should embrace wholeheartedly! APRIL AND THE EXTRAORDINARY WORLD tells the tale of an alternate universe in which all science and scientists have disappeared and consequently the world as we know it has evolved quite differently. We're still using coal for eveything energy-wise. Or we were, until it ran out: Now we're using charcoal from burnt trees.

The men who made this delectable bit of steampunk-inspired animation -- Christian Desmares and Franck Ekinci (shown above, with M. Ekinci on the left -- begin their tale around 1900 when certain French scientists are working on a certain pet project for the French royal government, only to have their project gutted and their experiment terminated. Except, of course, it isn't. Because it escapes.

The actual French title of this film is Avril et le monde truqué, which translates into April and the twisted world. But I guess the American distributor's marketing department imagined that our kids just couldn't handle a world that was twisted, so it had to become extraordinary.
Yeah, right.

Still, it's the art that counts, and this April in any kind of world works wonders. The film is the first project to be directed by this talented duo, and I doubt it will be their last.

April/World pits a family of smart scientists, of which our title character is the youngest, against a group of villainous Keystone Kops led by a particularly insistent detective (below) working for the government who dogs the family through thick and thin.

The filmmakers' vision of this dystopian world is full of fun and satire. (Note that, here, the French have their own set of "twin towers," shown three photos up.) All this will not be lost on parents, while kids can simply enjoy the view and the clever, inventive and often surprising story.

There's a little science, a little romance, some savvy chase scenes, the loss (then renewal) of a beloved pet and much, much more. The boys in the audience will get plenty of explosions and war games, while the girls will watch a smart, strong heroine. And everyone will get a kick out of that great talking cat named Darwin (above).

Eventually we leave the steampunk look for the beauty of the jungle (above), where the color palette changes appropriately. Politically, the film provides an interesting take on collaboration-with-the-enemy for the good of society -- pro and con. And ecologically, it is utterly on target. As one character notes toward the exciting finale:
 "Far from humans, nature could survive."

As consistently enjoyable and amusing as the movie is, it actually grows deeper, better and richer as it rolls along. And feminist, too. Who is really in change here turns out to be a blast-and-a-half. April and the Extraordinary World shows us anew what great animation -- via a combination of story, art, style and tone -- can aspire to. And achieve.

The movie, from GKIDS and running 105 minutes, opens  today, March 25, in New York City at the IFC Center), in Los Angeles (at Landmark's NuArt) on April 1, and then expands nationally around the country beginning on April 8.  Note: There are two versions of this film: in French with English subtitles and with English dialog spoken. So make sure you know which version you and the kids are going to see.

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