Phantom Boy (2015) , directed by Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol (both of “A Cat in Paris” fame) is one of those movies that has been on my Netflix queue for a long time that I’ve never found time to watch. I was drawn in by its animation style and the summary which promised a twist on the classic “boy hero” story.
The movie, unfortunately, did not deliver as much of an impact as I thought it would, and packaged an interesting premise into one of the oldest movie cliched filled genres of all time.
The movie is set in New York City, and follows a boy named Leo who is hospitalized with an illness. It’s never stated what exactly he is sick with but it seems to be cancer. Either way, it’s not important. While in the hospital, he gains the ability to become essentially, a ghost, His body remains asleep while his spirit, invisible to all, can fly and explore.
In the hospital Leo meets Alex, a policeman who was injured trying to apprehend a criminal known as “The Face,” who wants to take over New York City. The two have fewer than 24 hours to stop the mad man, without the help of the police department, of course. Helping Alex, is Mary, a journalist, who decides to help him find out where “The Face” is hiding and stop him before his computer virus shuts down the city.
Alex and Leo are stuck in the hospital, so it’s Mary doing most of the leg work. Leo can only follow her, but can’t communicate with her. He can communicate with Alex, who then relays the information to Mary in order to get her to safety. It’s certainly an interesting dynamic but it feels kind of awkward and forced.
None of them have three dimensional personalities. Leo is excitable and wants to become a cop. Alex is the typical cop who loses his job due to his risk-taking and has to gain back the trust of his boss. Mary is the typical intrepid journalist and damsel-in-distress, though she does get a few genuinely impressive moments.
“The Face” could have been such an interesting villain and he had so much potential, but tin the end was just a wanna-be Joker. He has a messed up face, no backstory and is definitely on the crazy scale…But, they don’t give him any real motives and that kind of left me confused. He intended to mess up New York City’s computers, but in this day and age it doesn’t feel very plausible.
At one point, he shuts off the power to the entire city, which you would think, wouldn’t go over well in a hospital (especially in a place where it seems nobody has back-up generators) but that’s glossed over. The hospital is really just used as a way to prevent the characters from actually traveling anywhere, rather than an interesting setting.
Plus, the hospital doesn’t work like any hospital I’ve ever been to. Leo is supposed to be very sick but isn’t in isolation, or in any kind of specialized ward. Instead, he just kind of roams around the hospital. Nobody thinks its weird for him to spend all his time with a random man. Alex has a broken leg and a concussion, nothing that should keep in the hospital for too long. While I should be able to have some kind of suspension of disbelief, it kind of messes up the film for me.
New York City also isn’t explored a lot. I assume it was chosen because of the movie’s “1920/30’s” gangster angle, even though it’s set in the modern day. But it felt irrelevant. If you’re going to set a movie in New York City, you have to give the movie a NYC vibe, which I just was not getting.
The movie thing kind of played out like a pilot episode. The premise of the movie would have made for a decent show about a detective and his super-powered boy sidekick stopping all sorts of wild and weird threats, with “The Face” being the main threat. But instead, we get a watered-down Batman/Spiderman cartoon combo with none of the heart or humor.
The animation style is unique, and it’s probably the movie’s strength. It’s not very realistic, and kind of reminds me of “The New Yorker” cartoons; long noses, not very symmetrical, oddly placed eyes. It does match up, somewhat, with the type of story the movie is trying to tell. “The Man With No Face” looks exactly like a Picasso painting. However, it makes it appear as though the movie is intended for older audiences.
And credit where credit is due, Leo is a very realistic depiction of an 11-year-old, especially when he meets Alex for the first time, and simply will not shut up, and keeps asking questions. It’s hard to get children just right in films, but I think that’s something this movie does very well.
But other than that, I don’t have a lot to say about the film
Sorry, for the short review. It’s been a bit of a busy week for me, but I promise I’m working on that ratings system and a review of the new “Incredibles 2” trailer. Seriously. I promise.
And that’s the scoop.