The Inventor

In 1516, Leonardo da Vinci (voice of Stephen Fry) was using mirrors to study the moon, painting masterpieces and creating models of flying apparatus, but his dissection of corpses caused Pope Leo X (voice or 'What We Do in the Shadows'' Matt Berry) to call him a heretic and when his benefactor, Giuliano de Medici (voice of John Gilkey) died, he accepted King Francis I of France’s (voice of Gauthier Battoue) invitation to join his court in hopes of blossoming as “The Inventor.”

Laura's Review: B

After making a short on the subject (2009’s “Leonardo”), writer/director Jim Capobianco (writer, "Ratatouille”) makes his feature directorial debut with da Vinci finding ways to explore and create despite the short sightedness of his patrons.  This charming stop motion’s characters sport ‘Peanuts’ style facial features and costumes fashioned from satin, linen and braided mesh, given added life by a talented vocal cast and occasional dips into hand drawn animation.

Once Da Vinci, Francesco Melzi (voice of Angelino Sandri) and his oversized, nonverbal assistant Zoroastro arrive in France, the King proudly shows him progress on his new palace.  But, Da Vinci tells him, it is being built on ground that is too soft and points to rocky terrain across the river as its rightful place.  This, in turn, leads him to unveil plans for ‘The Ideal City,’ a magical place of canals, locks and fountains that provide both beauty and function.  Unfortunately, only the King’s sister, Marguerite de Nevarre (voice of Daisy Ridley), expresses enthusiasm for the idea, the King himself demanding a statue in his honor, weaponry and plans to impress an upcoming visit from King Charles of Spain (voice of Max Baumgarten) and King Henry the VIII (voice of Daniel Swan).  Leonardo tells Marguerite that there are only three kinds of people – those who can see, those who can see when shown and those who cannot see at all.  The two become allies, Marguerite one of the few who do not shrink away from Da Vinci’s study of the human body.

The film posits Leonardo as on a quest for the meaning of life, a search for the soul, and the answer he finds is a delightful one.  Although the movie isn’t really a musical, composer/songwriter Alex Mandel has written nine original songs whose lyrics propel the narrative.  Capobianco (Pierre-Luc Granjon codirects) sprinkles the film with many delightful touches, such as the oversized Pope Leo dwarfing other characters or featuring a pair of dancing gravediggers constantly horrified when the corpse they’re about to inter disappears, Zoroastro trundling it off for his master’s study.  Heads of State engage in fisticuffs envisioned like a cartoon with giant cotton balls.       

Stephen Fry creates a joyous Leonardo, Matt Berry subverting the Pope’s many objections with impish humor.  Marion Cotillard is the voice of France’s Queen Mother, Louise de Savoy.  “The Inventor” is a great introduction to the original Renaissance man for kids and a thoughtful consideration of the constraints placed upon his genius by self-serving patrons for adults.

Robin's Review: B

Leonardo da Vinci (Stephen Fry) was a man of great innovation, an artist who created the Mona Lisa, the designer of flying machines and tanks and a pioneer in discovering how the human body works. He was also, according to this story, a diplomat and big city planner for the King of France (Gauthier Battoue) in “The Inventor”

While watching “The Inventor,” directed by Jim Capobianco and Pierre-Luc Granjon, I was struck by the quality stop-motion animation, the incorporation of Leonardo’s many inventions and ideas into the production design and a history lesson about da Vinci and his many contributins to art and science.

What I did not see is an animation that would appeal to kids, which is the typical audience for an such a movie. Here, though, we get a a fairly concise biography of the, arguably, greatest inventor in history that is aimed squarely at an adult audience. His story is told with technical accuracy as it covers the gemius’s later years. Being declared a heretic by Pope Leo X (Matt Berry), he soon is in the pontif’s good graces and sent to France and King Francis I.

So, if you are in the mood for a well-made animation and a history lesson about one of the world’s best known people, then “The Inventor” should fit the bill. I still wonder what audience the filmmakers were aiming at. I do not think it is young kids but may have some inquisitive pre-adolescents out there willing to give it a shot.

Blue Fox Entertainment releases "The Inventor" in theaters on 9/15/23.