April and the Extraordinary World

Posted by Joel Copling on May 5, 2016

All of what "April and the Extraordinary World" has to say about a young girl trying to rediscover her heritage by finished what her parents left undone is front-heavy. What it means to convey regarding the alternate timeline on which it takes place is almost entirely confined to a bit of narration (a cloying device that never achieves what filmmakers who utilize it want it to achieve). For the rest of it, the screenplay by Benjamin Legrand and co-director Franck Ekinci (based on a graphic novel by Jacques Tardi) is concerned with the silly goings-on of the narrative proper, although for a while, the film is a bleak one. This is the sad story of a daughter, father, mother, and grandfather all trying to accommodate the imperialism that has ravaged a France still ruled by Napoleon's bloodline and at endless war with the United States of America.

It is also a caper in which the daughter, forced by the sense that she lacks in identity, must create a serum--a MacGuffin that does something or other toward genuine immortality. The parents (voices of Mark Camacho and Macha Grenon) were not able to finish the serum before a freak accident separated them from their daughter shortly before their deaths aboard a blimp. Ten years later, April (voice of Angela Galuppo) is still trying to perfect it. Her grandfather (voice of Tony Rubinow), known to the family as "Pops," disappeared just before the tragedy took place after a chase involving the inspector in charge Pizoni (voice of Paul Giamatti), who is still obsessed with the case today and plants a tail on April in the form of Julius (voice of Tod Fennell), a petty criminal who becomes enamored with the resourceful April and her talking cat Darwin (voice of Tony Hale).

Yes, this is a movie that finds a way (established an opening scene that ends with a rather distasteful punch line) to make its central animal character a talking one. That would be fine, given that the film is an animated foreign import with a probable penchant for mystique and strangeness. Unfortunately, all of it here seems to exist for itself. There really is no reason for Darwin to exist beyond providing a couple of cute one-liners and being the focus of a plot twist as predictable as it is unimportant. There is also a pair of walking, talking creatures serving as the film's villains whose form will not be revealed here. They are voiced by the likes of J.K. Simmons and Susan Sarandon; one of them wants to rule with sovereignty, while the other recognizes the failure that such an approach has already had on Earth.

It's intriguing on the face it but, again, of little import. The biggest concern here is the fate of that MacGuffin, which must be able to perform multiple feats and serve multiple purposes. The second act is highly expository in nature, with characters iterating and reiterating developments of importance long past their establishment, while the third act is particularly clunky as the different threads of that narrative are required to be resolved by way of predictable and tired methods. Ekinci and co-director Christian Desmares are certainly able and capable of conjuring up images and designs of striking composition (A gigantic statue, always shrouded in shadow, in which April lives with Darwin is a highlight), but "April and the Extraordinary World," for all its flights of fancy, turns out to be a very ordinary thing, indeed.

Film Information

Featuring the voices of Angela Galuppo (April), Tony Hale (Darwin), Tony Robinow (Pops), Tod Fennell (Julius), Paul Giamatti (Pizoni), Mark Camacho (Paul), Macha Grenon (Annette), J.K. Simmons (Rodrigue), and Susan Sarandon (Chimene).

Directed by Christian Desmares and Franck Ekinci and written by Ekinci and Benjamin Legrand, based on the graphic novel by Jacques Tardi.

Rated PG (action/peril including gunplay, thematic elements, rude humor).

105 minutes.

Released in select cities on March 25, 2016.