DISCLAIMER: This review for The Inventor contains zero spoilers. Proceed comfortably.

Animation is often overlooked as a genre. Some folks wrongfully dismiss it as paltry and shallow — something crafted with children in mind. However, plenty of animated kids’ movies and TV bring fully dimensional, high-quality stories with universal appeal to the table. (Of course, adult animation can also be profound, but that’s for a different piece.)

About The Inventor

Here’s a synopsis of the film:

“The insatiably curious and headstrong inventor/artist Leonardo da Vinci leaves Italy to join the French court where he can freely experiment, invent flying contraptions and incredible machines, and study the human body. Joined in his adventure by the audacious Princess Marguerite, Leonardo attempts to uncover the answer to the ultimate question: ‘What is the meaning of life?'”

The Inventor stars Stephen Fry as Leonardo da Vinci, Daisy Ridley as Marguerite, Marion Cotillard as Louise de Savoy, Gauthier Battoue as Francis I of France and Matt Berry as Pope Leo X. Capobianco helms the feature alongside Pierre-Luc Granjon from his own script. Kim Keukeleire serves as the Animation Director, HeFang Wei is the 2D Animation Director and Alex Mandel composed the score.

What Is the Meaning of Life?

First thing’s first: the animation is, far and away, the best part of this gorgeous film. A unique amalgam of art styles depicts even the finest details and textures, from yarn-like hair to silk robes. It’s immersive and transfixing. Admittedly, it makes you want to reach through your screen to see if said textures are tangible.

The Inventor dabbles in various animation styles through seamless transitions between Leonardo’s external life and his thoughts/daydreams. It’s a clever way of fleshing out our compelling lead by inviting us into his rich inner world. Plus, the sketch-like artwork illustrating his stream-of-consciousness retains the original art style while presenting it with a twist.

Mandel crafts a beautifully ethereal score that transports you to another planet. There are some musical moments throughout, which are delightful in their own right. Capobianco and Granjon provide solid direction that keeps the narrative steadily moving forward.

Stephen Fry Is Our Guy

The vocal performances are strong, but Stephen Fry soars as our titular inventor. He injects Leonardo with vim and vigor and a contagious buoyancy. Daisy Ridley makes for a consistently great supporting voice. Matt Berry is the weakest of the bunch, which pains me to say as a devout Berry fan. His voice sounds too much like him, and it’s distracting. It doesn’t work here.

Regarding thematic exploration, the animated flick gracefully handles deep, thought-provoking topics like life and death while striking the perfect balance between levity and seriousness. It presents plenty of food for thought for kids and adults alike. What is the meaning of life? Can you capture a soul? The Inventor reminds us to be relentless in our pursuit of knowledge and, like Leonardo, insatiable.

Capobianco never lets the story sag, keeping his foot on the gas as the narrative momentum mimics Leonardo’s voracious appetite for life. All in all, The Inventor is an upbeat, exuberant film that makes you feel lighter after watching it. Expect to be reinvigorated and to reignite your childlike wonderment. There’s also a prevailing message of not letting others dim your light and that your opinion of yourself takes precedence. The Inventor showcases all of this without thwacking you over the head.

Dive headfirst into this sweet, stunningly animated adventure that hooks you from the first few moments and doesn’t let go until the credits roll. You’ll leave the theater with exciting questions to ponder with your little one, too.

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