Leo is a young boy who is undergoing treatments in a New York hospital (I don’t think they say it outright, but I assume the boy has cancer of some sort). Presumably due to his treatments, he learns that he has the ability to become a “phantom” and can explore the city as a ghostly apparition. Alex (voiced by Jared Padalecki) is a New York City detective who is injured while attempting to capture the villain known as “The Face” (voiced by Vincent D’Onofrio) who has taken control of the city’s power supply, throwing the metropolis into chaos. Now, using Leo’s phantom powers, Alex’s detective work and his reporter friend Mary (voiced by Melissa Disney) as their “legs” they team up to foil the plot and save New York.
I love superhero stories, and this seemed like a nice twist on the typical cartoon or comic book hero story. Phantom Boy is a French animation, and done by the same team that made A Cat In Paris. The animation was hand drawn, and rather simple, but it was still remarkably well done, and had a very French feel to it. The story keeps you engrossed in the mystery and actually can effect you emotionally. As I said, we’re not sure what Leo’s ailment actually is, but we learn that his chances of recovery are low. Despite that, he becomes the star of an action movie, and while some of the situations seem sad, he isn’t a sad character at all. Leo’s powers, his adventures, all show the silver lining of life, and finding the good things in bad situations because he only discovered this ability when he got sick.
The directors (Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol who also wrote the screenplay) said something very interesting about superheroes; it’s not their powers we’re interested in, but their human side, that’s what people identify with. It’s entertaining to watch them fly and climb walls, but that’s not what makes them captivating.
I really enjoyed Phantom Boy, it was an original story, that felt very pulp-ish, and very noir-ish and it had a lot of heart in it. It took a slightly different spin on astral projection ( A nice thing about foreign language cartoons is that when they’re dubbed into English, you don’t notice that the mouths don’t match like in live action films.
Bottom Line: I really enjoyed the fact that even though the Face’s backstory was teased several times it was never actually revealed. Also, I really enjoyed A Cat In Paris, which I watched the next night.