While the likes of Pixar, Disney, Blue Sky and DreamWorks are turning out animated films of varying quality — from masterpieces like “Inside Out” to disasters like the “Ice Age” flicks — they all share a similar quality: A computer generated sheen attained through the use of cutting edge techniques.
The new French-Danish cartoon “Long Way North” forgoes that slickness for a beautiful, hand-drawn approach. It has a lush, painted quality, a European visual style drawn from vintage French and Belgian graphic novels. First-time director Rémi Chayé previously had worked on the Oscar-nominated film “The Secret of Kells,” which also employed a more retro style.
The story, set in 1882, also has a kinship with classic adventure strips such as “Tintin.” It features an intrepid young Russian aristocrat named Sasha from St. Petersburg, setting out to find her explorer grandfather, who disappeared after setting off for the North Pole.
The film moves at a slow, deliberate pace as Sasha heads to the Arctic. The story unfolds simply, delivering a basic tale that is well told and where you don’t miss all the visual noise you see in many modern animated films, where they confuse flashiness for substance.
“Long Way North” won’t hit you with the emotional power of “Inside Out” or, thankfully, waste your time like the cluttered nonsense of “Storks,” but it will give you 80 minutes or so of well-told adventure and plenty of visual splendor.
“Long Way Home” will be screening both in English and in French with subtitles. I reviewed it off the English version.