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There's enough imagination in the French-made animated adventure "April and the Extraordinary World" to spread across 10 movies, and enough visual wonder to match its tricky plot.
Adapted from a graphic novel by the French artist Tardi, the story is set in an alternate-history France. In this timeline, the Second French Empire never fell, so democracy never rose. Also, mysteriously, all of the world's major scientists have disappeared, and any remaining scientists are enlisted by the Empire. As a result, the world still runs on steam power, which has depleted coal reserves and turned Europe gray and grimy.
In 1931, married scientists Annette and Paul are working on a life-extending serum. They are chased by the imperial police, led by the boorish Inspector Pizoni, and believed to be killed in a tram explosion leaving behind their daughter, April.
Flash-forward to 1941 in this timeline, the Empire never faces the threat of Nazism and April in hiding, trying to replicate her parents' chemistry and tending to Darwin, her sickly, and talking, cat. She is being tailed by Julius, a thief forced to work for Pizoni, who believes April will lead him to her parents or her engineer grandfather, Pops.
Directors Christian Desmares and Frank Ekinci fondly embrace the steampunk world and go to great lengths to re-create Tardi's breathtaking visuals. The double Eiffel Tower is pretty cool, as are the many dirigibles flying around Paris. The world they create is at once fantastical, yet realistic enough to make one want to move in.
The Broadway Centre Cinemas is screening the movie in its original French, with subtitles, or in dubbed English. Marion Cotillard voices April in the French version, while the English voice cast includes Tony Hale ("Veep") as Darwin, Paul Giamatti as Pizoni, and Susan Sarandon and J.K. Simmons as the mysterious Chimène and Rodrigue about whom viewers should discover for themselves.
Discovery turns out to be the key to "April and the Extraordinary World." The look and feel of the film evoke that spirit of Jules Verne that the best steampunk stories should have and the mere act of watching it makes one feel as if one has discovered something fresh, rare and unique.
'April and the Extraordinary World'
A young woman seeks her parents in a steampunk Paris in this enormously creative animated thriller.
Where • Broadway Centre Cinemas.
When • Opens Friday, May 6.
Rating • PG for action/peril including gunplay, some thematic elements and rude humor.
Running time • 105 minutes; will be screened either in French with subtitles, or dubbed in English.