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April and the Extraordinary World (Avril et le monde truqué)

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Fun, fast-paced French film d’animation that manages to keep its ideas from getting lost amid the steampunk aesthetics, frequent chases, and occasional explosions. Indeed, while those ideas sometimes manage to trump the people, they also explain the aesthetics: someone has figured out the value of knowledge without quite comprehending the importance of character, and is kidnapping the world’s greatest scientists for some private purpose. As a result, humanity never progresses past steam-driven technology, and it isn’t long before the coal is gone and there are wars for the forests needed to produce charcoal. Teenaged April is near the heart of this conspiracy, but of course, she doesn’t know it. All she knows is that her parents and grandfather spent their lives trying to create the Ultimate Serum against injury and disease, and now they’ve left her alone with a talking cat and a thirst for discovery. Enter a vengeful policeman, a desperate young thief, and the always dangerous dream of a better world than the one we’ve got. Directed by Christian Desmares and Franck Ekinci. In French with English subtitles. (2016) — Matthew Lickona

Rated PG | 1 hour, 46 minutes
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