Monday, March 7, 2016

Phantom Boy (2015) New York International Children's Film Festival 2016

Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli the directors of the Oscar nominated THE CAT IN PARIS return with THE PHANTOM BOY a superhero story set in New York.

Leo is a 12 year old-ish boy who is very ill. The course of his treatment is going to keep him in the hospital for an extended period. One of the side effects of the illness is that it allows him to leave his body and travel around while he sleeps. He spends his time flying around the city and helping the other patients in the hospital who have slipped out of their body and aren’t sure how to get back.

Alex is copy who is romancing a reporter named Mary. He also has a destructive side that tends to show up when he catches bad guys as places accidentally blow up or cars get crashed. Banished to the docks, Alex ends up injured when he runs into a disfigured villain who has threatened the city with a computer virus. At the hospital Alex meets Leo and the pair attempt to track down the bad guy before the city is destroyed.

Superhero crime story comes from the directors love of Marvel comics (the both love Spiderman). The story began when Gagnol heard the stories of people leaving their bodies during surgery and watching the proceedings. The pair take it farther and have created a winning action adventure that kids of all ages are going to love. And what’s not to love the film moves like the wind, has several killer set pieces (the sinking ship) and some very funny jokes such as never being able to find out why the bad guys face looks like a jigsaw puzzle. The film is just a grand popcorn film of the highest order.

If I have any reservations it’s that writer Gagnol moves things along a little too neatly. Plot holes open up simply because it allows him to move things along. My advice is don’t think about things too closely. (And full disclosure my viewing if the film came at the end of my time at this year’s NYICFF where the film had to bump up with all the other super films screening so it unfairly suffers in comparison.)
Almost 7th Avenue and 50th Street
The other reservation I have is a small annoyance that is my own doing- namely it’s clear that neither Ganol nor Felicioli ever were in New York prior to appearing at the NYICFF this past Sunday. While we see some iconic places (usually cribbed from classic films or photos) the places are not lined up in anything close to the real city. Worse the film really is much too generic a city to be New York. Frankly you could cut all the NYC references and it would make no difference (though because the directors like Marvel their superhero story has to be set in New York). I mention this because it bothered me and it should be not taken as being anything wrong with the film, it's my own problem.

Ultimately though this is a great little film. And is highly recommended when GKids releases it later this year.

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