Originally published 1/07/18. This post has been edited.
April and the Extraordinary World (2015) (or April et le Monde Truque) is an original work co-directed by Christian Desmares and Franck Ekinci. It is a French-Belgian-Canadian production. I’ve found that French/Canadian cartoons tend to be a little more risqué in nature than American ones, even if they’re meant for kids.
April and the Extraordinary World has a lot of moments that never would have been allowed in an American cartoon film, but these moments don’t take attention away from the narrative.
The movie is set in an alternate world where the Franco-Prussian War never happened, due to Napoleon III dying in a mysterious accident in the lab of one Gustav Franklin. Over the next several decades, famous scientists start to disappear.
This leads to science coming to a standstill. The world is heavily polluted due to the reliance on wood as fuel after coal sources are depleted.
The few scientists still around are forced by the French government to search for new energy sources.
And this is not good for young April Franklin, whose parents and grandpa, “Pops” are working on an “invulnerability serum.”
While trying to escape Inspector Pizoni, who is trying to ‘recruit’ them, April’s parents disappear in a thundercloud. After being separated from her grandfather, she lives on her own with the talking cat Darwin.
And that’s only the setup to the film.
The actual plot has April still trying to perfect the serum her parents made in order to cure the now ill-Darwin and trying to avoid Pizoni. And Pizoni’s newest assistant, Julius. One day, a rat appears carrying a mysterious message from April’s father…and things go off the deep end.
It gets…pretty weird. Everything makes sense within the context of the film, but the plot takes the idea of “alt-reality steampunk-era 1941” to an extreme.
However, everything plays into each other and you’re able to see how all the events are connected. It’s a very interesting, and pretty well-thought-out world, even if we only get to see a small part of it.
There are a lot of time skips at the beginning, and the actual meat of the film only starts about a half-hour into the 90-minute film, which leaves little room for character development. And it’s frustrating. Some of these parts could have easily been told in flashback or shortened, and the film could have focused more on the movie’s present.
My one other main issue is with the narrator, who is there for a good chunk of the beginning of the film, but not during the rest. He seems to be there, mainly, to explain the events between Napoleon III dying and April’s parents disappearing. It takes up a lot of time and while it does set up the world and story well, it feels like padding. It also feels odd that the narrator seems to be forgotten part way through the film.
I get from an aesthetic standpoint as to why he exists; it fits in well with the old-timer film/radio narrator from the movie’s time period. I just think there are some ways it could have been better integrated,
The film also treats science as a broad, all encompassing category, with nothing to distinguish between biology and physics. Any kind of science can be used to be achieved any means, and any scientists knows all other areas sciences equally well, which is kind of frustrating.
Darwin is, by far, my favorite character. I like his snarky comments, and the way he teases April about Julius. I think he has the most personality out of the main cast and reminds me somewhat of Jiji from Kiki’s Delivery Service.
The villains of the film come in second. I can’t say who they were, because it was a twist, but it really cements the “weirdness” of the film.
I love the unique animation and character designs. It’s never really boring to look at, even though a lot of the backgrounds are black, gray, brown and white.
There’s a lot of care put into showing how all the vehicles the people in this world use, and to showing the minor and major differences between this world and our own.
Combined with the plot, the whole film has a feeling of an odd direct to video movie that you watch one day in elementary school because you’re stuck indoors and never see again, and because you don’t remember the title, you’re never quite sure if it was real or not.
It’s not a terrible or even a mediocre film by any means despite my criticisms. I was expecting fewer clichés than the film presented and a tighter plot than it had, but it’s definitely a movie I’ll watch again and again. I’ve already seen it at least twice and I have found new things each time I watch. Sometimes it’s foreshadowing and sometimes it’s a reference to another famous animated film. Because the references are subtle, this film easily stands out on its own.
Definitely watch it when you have the chance. And then watch it again, and then maybe a third time.
The movie is available on Netflix, iTunes, Amazon Video, GooglePlay and DVD.
That’s the scoop!
Year of release: 2015
Length: 106 minutes
Directors: Christian Desires, Franck Ekinci
Producers: Michel Dutheil, Franck Ekinci, Marc Jousset
Screenplay: Franck Ekinci, Benjamin Legrand