What is a modern moviegoing child to make of “The Zigzag Kid,” a 2012 Dutch family adventure opening today at the West Newton? The characters are live-action and recognizably human and the locations are on this planet. As far as I can tell there are no digital effects whatsoever. A tie-in soundtrack is definitely not available and the only musical number is sung by an aging chanteuse played by Isabella Rossellini. How do you sell this thing to your kids? Being delightfully inventive will have to do.
Based on a book by Israeli writer David Grossman (and coming to the screen in a Babel of English, Dutch, and French, the latter two subtitled), “Zigzag Kid” feels a little like the recent “Hugo” filtered through the old “Emil and the Detectives.” Nono (Thomas Simon) is the 13-year-old son of one of Europe’s greatest police detectives (Fedja Van Huet); but while the old man has taught him the secrets of criminology, Nono’s still a kid and a mischievous one. Beneath that mischief is a sense of sadness at the hole left by his late mother (Camille de Pazzis), who died when he was a year old.