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Black Mor’s Island

A modest but solidly constructed toon cousin to "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "Master and Commander," Jean-Francois Laguionie's "Black Mor's Island" follows a 15-year-old would-be pirate on a singular hunt for buried treasure. Handsome visuals and an especially classy instrumental score make this a quality adventure for kids.

A modest but solidly constructed toon cousin to “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Master and Commander,” Jean-Francois Laguionie’s “Black Mor’s Island” follows a 15-year-old would-be pirate on a singular hunt for buried treasure. Handsome visuals and an especially classy instrumental score make this a quality adventure for kids, with enough narrative drive to keep adults engaged. Pic has been performing well since February release, and offshore distribs and programmers can board with confidence.

Opening sequences are Dickens-meets-“Metropolis” as young boys toil in a dungeon in Cornwall, southwest England, at the dawn of the 19th century. Between hard labor and bowls of gruel, their only amusement is being read to from a thick volume recounting the adventures of Black Mor, the notorious pirate.

The handsome but illiterate protag known as “Kid” purloins a map from the book and escapes by diving through the lone window without metal bars into the water below. When he washes ashore, one-legged MacGregor and lanky Beanpole, two colorful and unscrupulous brigands, find him.

Determined to be the captain of his own vessel, Kid swipes a Coast Guard cutter. Taka — an African deserter in the hold — and a monkey named Jim complete his resourceful crew. When they land later for supplies, they take aboard a young monk whose reading skills (and secret identity) come in very handy.

Appealingly drawn toon sports a nice ratio of problems to problem-solving and boasts a surprise subplot that will entertain girls as well as boys. Vet animator Laguionie, whose work dates back to 1965, won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1978 for his lilting, hand-painted short, “Rowing Across the Atlantic.”

Black Mor's Island

France

Production: A Dargaud-Marina/Gaspard de Chavagnac presentation of a Dargaud-Marina, La Fabrique, Les Films du Trainge production, in association with Teva Studio. (International sales: Celluloid Dreams, Paris.) Produced by Gaspard de Chavagnac, Patrick Moine. Directed by Jean-Francois Laguionie. Screenplay, Laguionie, Anik Le Ray.

Crew: Editor, Pascal Pachard; music, Christophe Heral; production designers, Richard Mithouard, Jean Palenstjin; storyboard, Bruno Le Floc'h ; sound (Dolby), Jonathan Liebling, William Flageollet; character creation, Laguionie, Le Floc'h; lay-out, Le Floc'h; character modeling, Daniela Natcheva; associate producers, Christophe Juban, Eric Jacquot, Christopher Panzner; assistant director, Henri Heidsieck. Reviewed at Elysees Biarritz, Paris, Jan. 17, 2004. Running time: 85 MIN.

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