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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » April and the Extraordinary World (Blu-ray)
April and the Extraordinary World (Blu-ray)
Universal // PG // August 2, 2016 // Region A
List Price: $34.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ryan Keefer | posted August 13, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Sometimes you run into these strange little films that set up stories that are embedded in their own alternate reality and sometimes they work, or don't. But at least the effort in telling the story is admirable. I'm not entirely sure where April and the Extraordinary World falls within some of these labels, but it's not without merits of its own.

Franck Ekinci co-wrote and co-directed the film, with Benjamin Legrand (Snowpiercer) assisting on the former and Christian Desmares (Persepolis) on the latter. This animated film sews the seeds early, presupposing that the Napoleonic era is France continued on while the environment and resources have suffered. They subsist on coal but the air is unsafe to remain in for periods of time. A police inspector named Gaspar (Paul Giamatti, Sideways) is trying to find a family of scientists who are working on a potion for invulnerability. He finds most of them, but the youngest, April (Marion Cotillard, Rust and Bone) and her cat Darwin (Tony Hale, Veep) escape. Jump ahead a decade, and Gaspar is still trying to find April, who wants to find out why the top scientists over the past decades have been disappearing.

Early on within April, I was damn near enchanted with the story that was being told, and with the visuals being presented, there was definitely some sort of nod to Miyazaki vis a vis the visuals. The visuals, the creation of Darwin as a character for April to play off of, there were easy things to get you hooked into the story somehow. It's when the story introduces Chimene (Susan Sarandon, Tammy) and Rodriguez (J.K. Simmons, Men, Women & Children) is where things take a turn from the fictional or even sci-fi to the random and even silly at some point.

It's not that the portrayals that Sarandon and Simmons get into are funny. Heck, even the characters themselves aren't funny if we're being honest. But there is buying into a storyline, and then there is the storytellers taking advantage of such faith with an introduction of characters of consequence in the last half of the film that are silly. I'm not going to go out of my way to spoil the characters Simmons and Sarandon portray, but they could very easily turn the feelings of the film significantly, as much as it did for me. I'm sure there are other films that have had a storytelling or character moment do it for me, but few as recently or significantly. It baffles me why Ekinci and Legrand went in the direction they did.

This isn't to say that I'm down on April and the Extraordinary World, because I'm not. I went from approving Dad to…'what the hell was THAT about?!?' quickly on the turn of a couple of events. And it is a shame, because I thought the film had a lot going for it for the first third of it or so. Then it became too clever for itself and thus a bit of a mess as a result. Is it not too hard to ask for filmmakers to even have a grasp of what their lane is like before straying away from it?

The Blu-ray:
The Video:

April and the Extraordinary World is presented in a 1.85:1 widescreen, high-definition transfer with the AVC codec and the results are devoid of distraction. The color reproduction in the film is faithful. Character animations are smooth and don't have any problems with distortion or pixilation, and the image clarity is more vivid than I was expecting coming into the film. It looks very nice.

The Sound:

The DTS-HD Master Audio track the film sports gets a chance to show off the various action in the film cleanly and effectively. There are moments of directional effects and channel panning in April, and the action sequences have occasional bouts of low end fidelity. Immersion is present for most of the film and well-balanced, though it's not entirely consistent. Good, not great.

The Extras:

Putting aside the standard definition disc, the digital copy and the trailer (1:49), "The Origin of Extraordinary World" (28:00) shows us the ideas for the creatures and generally how some things were created the way they were. Animatics are shown in some scenes, from beginning to end, along with the sound design, and the inspiration for the drawings in question is touched upon. The voiceover sessions are covered, showing the French cast's involvement, and the crew talks about the cast in the film. All in all it's a good piece, and man, I'm starting to wish, nay hope, that the French handle our Blu-ray/DVD supplemental material.

Final Thoughts:

April and the Extraordinary World starts out with an interesting theory, but gets a little too involved in the world that it's created for its own good. The disc is a technical accomplishment from the audio and video perspectives, and could have used a little more helf in the bonus material department. It is definitely worth checking out at some point down the road.

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