Phantom Boy

(SFX Magazine, Future Publishing)

This amiable French cartoon is part paranormal fantasy, part Batman and Dick Tracy pastiche. In Manhattan, a little boy is hospitalised (his bald head suggests leukemia). But he has a power – he can project himself into an astral body, soaring into the sky to see all. When the city’s threatened by a jigsaw-faced gangster, the boy and a policeman recovering in hospital team up to save the day.

It’s a good mix of genres, even if individual elements are only partly successful. The crime story is sometimes exciting, but the villains are too buffoonish, even when they brandish guns. Many of the jokes are good, but they can dissipate the film’s momentum. On the realistic side, the boy’s medical condition is a clear threat, and there’s a subtle ambiguity about how we should understand the story. But the final resolution feels disappointingly safe, given how the film seemed to be shaping up.

The look evokes a colourful bandes-desinees strip, with strong lines and flickering shadows, though the characters’ mouths are less successful. The strings-heavy suspense music brings back memories of Batman: The Animated Series, adding appeal to this thoroughly decent cartoon.