Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Original Movie Review: April and the Extraordinary World

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What is it? Original French animated movie a little over 90 minute in runtime or so
Where did it air? Well I got it off DVD, so you'll either have to really hit the programming guides (I'd probably guess IFC or whatever network likes regularly airing Miyazaki movies would be your best bet to find it on-network) or just see if it's on Netflix or another streaming service
Who stars in it? Fun fact: Marion Collitard (yes that one) was April in the original French dub. Given her long background in American films it'd make a lot of sense to see if she can reprise her role, so of course they didn't do that at all. Instead the cast includes Susan Sarandon, J.K. Simmons, Tony Hale and Paul Giamatti, so either way they have some pretty heavy hitters with this one (which is actually pretty par for the course where a lot of animated imports are concerned) 
Why are we reviewing it? Well, I guess I could either say "because foreign animation something something appreciation" or I guess I could say "because I say so." Another fun fact: I was (and still am) a pretty big anime fan; Kiki's Delivery Service is one of my most favorite movies of all time.

Speaking of which, how does it stand up to the great Miyazaki?

The similarities are surely going to be there between Miyazaki along with Steamboy (another movie that's sometimes compared to his works). If you've seen any French animation - and you probably have, between Totally Spies!, Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir; even the current CGI run of Alvinnn! And the Chipmunks on Nick and PJ Masks (although that's based on a French comic but produced in-house by Disney Animation Studios) - then you've no doubt noticed that French animation has a lot of resemblance to Japanese animation. I really don't know how this came to be - if they were deriving from the same influences (Japanese animation hails Disney as an influence, especially with the large eyes), if the French were influenced by the Japanese or if it happens to be a massive, massive coincidence - but it does mean there's a large crossover fanbase. In fact, in the making of bonus feature the creators admit the Miyazaki comparisons will be inevitable, both in animation style and plot.

That plot following a family of scientists in an alternative version of the 1940s where, due to nearly every scientist disappearing over the past 70 years from mysterious circumstances (circumstances that, naturally, work their way into the main plot pretty quickly) the world's been stuck in the steam age and run on coal and wood-power rather than oil. Our eponymous heroine April has been working on a super-serum that could make people live longer but it could also potentially turn animals into super-soldiers, blah blah blah and there's a talking cat in it. Not to give too much away since I do think it's worth watching.

...so, yeah, I more or less spoiled the review there but you come reading these things to get straight to the point, don't you? But is it as good as a Miyazaki film? Ehh...I'm tempted to go on a limb and say no way. It's like comparing the best of Girl Meets World (psst it's She Don't like Me, at least in Unknown's opinion) to, I don't know, an above-mediocre Boy Meets World episode (man I really need to get reacquainted with that series on TeenNick). The basic idea is there, and it's great, but it still feels like a facsimile of the true master.

Of course, the real question is, can it just stand on it's own? And that, it does.

Movie Grade: B. Again, pales in comparison to the master work, but very good on its own.
Movie MVP: It's hard for me to choose between Angela Galuppo who does all the heavy work as April, Tony Hale as Darwin (that aforemtioned talking cat) and Susan Sarandon and J.K. Simmons. But of course if I have no problem with four-way ties in the past, what's stopping me now?

Extra Thoughts

 - final fun fact, Angela Galuppo also co-starred as one of the mean girls (I forgot which one exactly since, well, yeah) opposing Ashley Tisdale in Picture Perfect so making me aware that this movie exists is one good thing to actually come out of that.

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