Aficionados of the lovely, old-school style of animation on display in the Academy Award-nominated 2010 feature “A Cat in Paris” will be pleased to discover a new hand-drawn tale of adventure from the French filmmakers Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol.
Set in a mythical version of New York City — midway between the colorful Gotham of comic books and the rotten Big Apple of film noir — “Phantom Boy” tells the story of a sick child named Leo. During a long hospital convalescence, the 11-year-old finds that he is able to experience something like astral projection, traveling outside of his body in spirit form and zooming around the city, where he stumbles upon a plot by a criminal hacker to extort money from the city. Teaming with a similarly convalescing detective and an intrepid female journalist who still believes in shoe-leather reporting, Leo uses his strange ability to coordinate the trio’s unraveling of the crime.
There’s an appealing quaintness to the storytelling that calls to mind the Tintin books of the artist and writer Hergé, especially that series’s old-world charm. Felicioli and Gagnol’s New York is a city lost in time and place, a metropolis of the imagination more than a physical location. The visuals, which are particularly effective at rendering Leo’s ability to pass through solid walls, underscore the old-fashioned quality. Despite the cyberwarfare theme, “Phantom Boy” feels as if it could have been written 75 years ago.
PG. At Landmark’s E Street Cinema. Contains some violence and mature thematic material, including a gravely ill child. 84 minutes. “Phantom Boy” is being shown in two versions: French with subtitles and an English-dubbed version. Audrey Tautou heads the French voice cast; the English voice cast includes Jared Padalecki, Fred Armisen and Vincent D’Onofrio.