The New York City spirit
Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol, Academy Award nominees for A Cat in Paris, offer families some animated variety with this old-fashioned adventure tale set in a modern-day New York filtered through the stylings and tropes of film noir. When a sick boy named Leo goes to the hospital for treatment, he learns he has the ability to send his spirit anywhere he wants. He uses this power to help injured New York City cop Alex (v. Jared Padalecki) to save his potential girlfriend and the city from a disfigured gangster (v. Vincent D’Onofrio).
Phantom Boy’s greatest success is its singular appearance, which stands out amongst the cookie-cutter CG animation that dominates the big screen; it’s like a world of Picasso people. While the action never quite crescendos—the excitement never builds beyond a dull hum—the film has a surprisingly quick wit that’s funnier than nearly any other animated feature released this year. Not many family films include a Gremlins reference these days.