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Creative 'April and the Extraordinary World' imagines a world powered by steam

Posted May 8

“APRIL AND THE EXTRAORDINARY WORLD” — 3 stars — Voices of Marion Cotillard, Philippe Katerine, Jean Rochefort; PG (action/peril including gunplay, some thematic elements and rude humor); Broadway

It’s going to be hard for any movie to compete with “Captain America: Civil War” this weekend, but parents might find an appealing offbeat alternative in a piece of animated French science fiction called “April and the Extraordinary World.”

“April” is a creative and compelling film set in an alternate historic reality that imagines different results from the Industrial Revolution. It’s essentially a steampunk fantasy with subtitles.

April (voiced by Marion Cotillard) is a young French woman, searching for her parents. She comes from a family of scientists, and their pursuit of an invincibility serum since the late 19th century has resulted in an alternate reality where the world is powered by steam and coal.

Ever since a failed experiment by April’s grandfather Pops (Jean Rochefort) in 1870, prominent scientists such as Einstein and Fleming have been vanishing, taking their scientific advances along with them. April’s parents were also kidnapped when she was a small child, and as the film settles in for the long haul in a revised, World War II-free version of the 1940’s, the mysterious people behind the disappearances set their sights on our protagonist.

Like her family, April has a talent for chemistry, and she has been working to find the invincibility serum on her own. With the help of a suspicious suitor named Julius (Marc-André Grondin) and a talking dog named Darwin (Philippe Katerine), April has been trying to find her parents and, as her efforts progress, so do the forces arrayed against her.

April also draws interest from an Inspector named Pizoni (Bouli Lanners). Pizoni was pursuing April and her parents at the time of their disappearance, and he swore to track down the remnants of the family, including Pops.

It’s a pretty complex plot for an animated film geared toward children, but it makes for an interesting story. As April gets closer to finding her family, directors Christian Desmares and Franck Ekinci explore a creative world of iron, steam and soot. With conventional transportation tossed aside, the characters in “April” get around in crazy, zany vehicles such as a steam-powered helicopter and an ironclad house that can swim around at the bottom of the Seine River.

The standard 2D cell animation isn’t fancy, but it lives well within its style conventions. As intelligent as the story is, its quirkiness and periodic slapstick comedy jabs will remind audiences it is targeted at a young audience.

As you might imagine, there’s a mild ecological message at the heart of “April” as various characters wander around in gas masks during their day-to-day routines. But few audiences will feel like they are being preached to.

As animated family fare goes, “April and the Extraordinary World” is an intelligent option for families who enjoy frequent trips to the multiplex, especially when “Civil War” screenings are already sold out.

Evening screenings of “April and the Extraordinary World” at Broadway Centre Cinemas will be presented in its original French with English subtitles, and matinee shows will be dubbed in English.

“April and the Extraordinary World” is rated PG for action/peril including gunplay, some thematic elements and rude humor; running time: 105 minutes.

Joshua Terry is a freelance writer and photojournalist who appears weekly on "The KJZZ Movie Show" and also teaches English composition for Salt Lake Community College. Find him online at facebook.com/joshterryreviews.

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