Jo lives in a dream (of a house) in la-la land. Quirky and hyperactive, she is an aspiring animator, who dreams of creating a character that knows her as well as she does him/her. After pushing through a handful of inspirational maxims, director Rojin Thomas draws an interesting premise of a girl who talks of an Artificially Intelligent Animation Character (AIAC, as he likes to call it). Reminiscent of the academy award winning Spike Jonze movie Her, where an artificially intelligent computer adapts and learns the human ways, Jo and the Boy adds an angle of sci-fi to an otherwise success story of Jo and her boy.
There are a few more elements in the movie than what you can keep focus on. After a stint of unsuccessful experiments, Joan Mary John (Manju Warrier) strikes a deal with a bigger animation company, when she plans an animation character based on the boy, Criz (Sanoop Santhosh). While ‘augmented reality’ as a concept lurks in the background, another one emerges—Criz, with overnight fame, becomes a handful to manage.
The narrative runs from aspirations to conflicts on the way, to a brief creator-creation discord and commercialisation of emotions, all for a long-ish 156 minutes. While the many concepts are engaging, there is less resolve shown where a base emotion needs to preside.
The first half of the film runs breezy; the father in Lalu Alex is as always, amicable. Kalaranjini aims for a few good comic shots and gets her audience too. Manju Warrier seems to have finally emerged from a spate of woman-in-woe characterizations, and is quite spunky here, dusting back to being, a reflection of her effervescent self from older movies. She proves an able choice to be carrying the movie on her shoulders. Sanoop plays up the ‘cool boy’ image to good effect.
The sets and backdrop are dipped in misty blues and greens. Dashed hopes and little laments just don’t spell right in such surreal surroundings! Kodaikanal is refreshing on the canvas and the frames sparkle in beauty. Applause, Neil D. Cunha.
The screenplay, largely original, could have avoided the inspired scene (shall we say borrowed?) from We Bought A Zoo, for it was just not well thought-out.
While Jo and the Boy isn't fantasy, its pronounced trait is that of a fantastical dream. International recognition, sky rocketing fame and other such seemingly impossible factors happen to be right in the neighbourhood for the characters, and while the novelty of it all entertains, a focussed narrative should have been the director's call.
Jo and the Boy is a dream bubble; it could burst if you try to poke it!