April and the Extraordinary World literally begins with a succession of bangs that change the course of European history. When his unfortunate meddling with the experiment intended to produce super soldiers leads to the demise of Napoleon III on the eve of the Franco-Prussian War, France continues under the rule of a succession of Napoleons. By the 1930s, the predominant threat is no longer Fascism but rather the mysterious disappearance of scientists around Europe (familiar faces include Nobel, Einstein, and Marconi), which serves to keep people trapped in their reliance on steam and coal. There’s only a single tree left in Paris and conflicts are arising over natural resources. In this steampunk influenced alternate history, not only is Paris changed by the air ships hovering overhead, but the city has a second Eiffel Tower. Meanwhile, the Franklins (grandfather, parents, granddaughter, and talking cat named Darwin) continue to work on a super serum that can regenerate anything. When they are interrupted by the police, they put their escape plan into action. It goes awry when a mysterious, grey cloud swoops down and abducts Mr. and Mrs. Franklin, leaving April alone with the cat. Years later, April still continues to work on finding the secret formula. This puts her in the path of the vengeful police officer who attempted to arrest her parents, a thief turned into a reluctant police spy, and her long-lost grandfather. However, the growing questions about the force that made her parents vanish into this air adds a complex level to the mystery and leads to a surprising finale. While largely an adventure film, environmental concerns are theme throughout the movie. It raises many questions about personal responsibility and the long-term consequences of scientific discoveries
First released in France in 2015 (there is a dubbed English version), April and the Extraordinary World is rated PG, although reviews found in places such as Common Sense Media recommend it for children age nine or older. The film’s material is generally appropriate for this age range. Despite occasional flashes of humor, most of them involving Darwin the cat, the story is very action oriented and involves quite a bit of gun violence. Also, the film uses two lengthy prologues to impart information before getting to April’s adventures. It is possible that young children will lose interest. A small handful of scenes involving swearing and coarse jokes may make parents very concerned about these issues want to hold off until their children are in their early teens. In addition, like many orphans in children’s media, April survives by her wits and will steal the chemicals and text books needed to fund her research.
The film has received little critical attention. A very short review focused on the plot can be found at the AVCafe. Reviews on Common Sense Media are generally favorable, finding it interesting and balanced between the plot and characters. One of the great strengths of April and the Extraordinary World is that the film is not associated with the large American media companies producing works for children and the commercialism that accompanies a lot of their output. Also, April who wears her hair short and dresses in sensible trousers for much of the film, is a nice antidote to the predominance of Disney princesses. Unfortunately, like too many girls in these stories, April does not have any female friends of role models. Nevertheless, she demonstrates both bravery and intelligence to save the day and ties up a convoluted plot neatly in such a way that all of the story’s strands fall into place.