Review by Dan Skip Allen
Animation has taken a big turn since the days of hand-drawn animation and the dominance of the genre by Disney. Sure, Pixar came along and broke new ground in the ‘90s with computer animation. But Disney still had an entire decade of children's classics that we all remember today. Since the early 2000s, the genre has come a long way. Puppetry, claymation, stop motion, and different forms of computer animation and hand-drawn animation have revolutionized the format. The Inventor is a mix of a few of these forms mashed together.
In 1516, there was a man named Leonardo da Vinci (Strphen Fry). He was an innovator, creator, scientist, and inventor. That is just the tip of the iceberg. He even painted and drew works of art, such as the Mona Lisa. But the Cardinal of the Catholic Church at the time, in Rome, Italy, wasn't happy with this man's ideas and wild thoughts. He wanted him to be more subtle with his ideas. A young king, from France, got wind of this genius and invited him to stay in his country and help build him a state-of-the-art castle and statue to show his glory to the other kings in Europe. The problem was the same as in Italy. This man had a mind of his own, and he had a bunch of wild notions about the human body, the Earth, and the stars.
This animated film is a fun little story that parents might want to show their children, or even teachers could show their students. Kids could learn from this story because it's a true story. The problem is it's not that great, and to be honest, it's a little boring. There are a few musical numbers, including one I rather liked involving the sun and planets, but the songs are mostly mundane, apart from "Human and Nature in Harmony."
As far as the animation goes, it's a mix of hand-drawn animation and stop-motion animation. The hand-drawn animation comes in most during dream sequences, while the stop motion is the main animation which helps tell the story in a linear form. The stop motion was similar to the puppets used in the Mister Rogers show back in the '70s-’80s. It wasn't very impressive. Maybe because the director, Jim Capobianco (who also voices the Cardinal in the movie) wanted to keep it pretty simple. Who knows?
He also assembled a cast of actors to play the characters that weren't very well known, besides Fry, Daisy Ridley (who voices the king's sister), and Marian Cotillard (who voices the king's mother). Ridley and Cotillard had bigger roles in the story and interacted opposite the French king quite a bit, but I think it's a waste of these two women's talents. They both deserved better from my perspective.
The Inventor doesn't invent anything new in the animation genre. I'd be very surprised if anybody thought it deserved a shot at the Academy Award for Best Animated Film, because it doesn't. It's subpar animation, even though it's a combination of two styles. The voice cast was wasted all except Fry, who was delightful as Leonardo DeVinci. This story was more fit for an afternoon television show, such as Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood or The Electric Company back in the ‘80s on Saturday mornings. It's educational and has one catchy song, but that's it. There isn't much about this film that impressed me.
The Inventor opens in theaters on September 16.