As animated French films about young people fighting evil in industrial metropolises go, Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol’s superhero story Phantom Boy is no April and the Extraordinary World — but still fine for what it is.
The boy in question is chemotherapy patient Leo (Gaspard Gagnol), who can astrally project himself at will, flying through an oddly Gallic New York while still being able to speak and hear through his otherwise sleeping body. Leo joins forces with Alex (Edouard Baer), a cop who has been hospitalized while trying to stop the gangster known as the Man With the Broken Face (Jean-Pierre Marielle) from holding the city for ransom with a computer virus.
Though there’s a full opening credit sequence, the narrative still ends with a triumphant display of the title à la Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, yet Phantom Boy also has the breezy ambiance of an old-time comic book that doesn’t dwell too much on the whys of its hero’s power. Projecting his astral self for brief periods is just something he’s been able to do since becoming ill.
It’s also notable that intrepid journalist Mary (Audrey Tautou) is actually the one out on the streets putting herself in danger, facing peril without being a damsel: Leo may proclaim himself a hero, but it’s Mary who does the heavy lifting.
Directed by Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol
Opens July 15, IFC Center
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 13, 2016