Film: A Cat in Paris (Une vie de chat) (2010)
Cast includes: Anjelica Huston (The Royal Tenenbaums), Matthew Modine (Weeds), JB Blanc (Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End), Steve Blum (Call of Duty), Marcia Gay Harden (Mystic River), Lauren Weintraub
Director: Jean-Loup Felicioli (Le nez à la fenêtre), Alain Gagnol (Les tragedies minuscules)
Genre: Animated adventure (70 minutes)
Nico is a cat burglar who actually teams up with a real cat named Dino. What better lookout than a clever tabby. But in the morning, Dino returns to Zoé's room and presents her with a fresh-killed lizard, which Zoé adds to her collection. "It's not what other little girls play with. Maybe you're part cat," says Zoé's nanny. Zoé's mom is a bundle of nerves and dedication to her demanding job, "I need that report on my desk first thing in the morning." Mom hardly notices Zoé at all, until she sees the container of lizards. "You can't keep lizards in your room." Zoé hardly talks at all, since her father was murdered recently, but Zoé treasures all of Dino's little gifts and she's keeping the lizards! [Ah choo! The new nanny's perfume is sure nasty!] Mom tries to smooth over things with Zoé, "I'm going to find the man who killed your father." Mom turns out to be a pistol-packing momma -- she's the police superintendent in charge of the case.
In the meantime, there's another case that's just bedeviling the police; it's the recent spree of cat burglaries. But there's finally a break in the case... they've found cat paw prints at the scene of a recent robbery. Naturally, the police are hoping their clues will lead them to Victor Costa... the evil criminal who killed Zoé's dad. (Of course, we know the cat paw prints will eventually lead to Zoé's bedroom and the "terrible Tom," Dino. "Well. Doesn't that take the biscuit!"
Although this is a charming French film, the characters in the U.S. version all speak English, so no subtitles needed. Nominated for an Academy Award (Best Animated Feature Film), the story is truly for young children. But adults should enjoy the artistry. Unlike a typical American films, the animation in A Cat in Paris is stylized and sophisticated... all gorgeously hand drawn. Every scene is truly a treat for the eyes. It took quite a while for this film to get to American theaters, obviously because distributors weren't sure we were ready to embrace an animated film that's clearly not a Disney production. But if audience reaction is any indicator, it seems that kids were totally engrossed in this Hitchcock-style crime caper and weren't at all put off by the artistry. It's really very clever, including the short film at the beginningThe Extinction of the Saber Toothed House Cat. (Be sure to read the credits.) Zoé and Dino will win your heart. Even the clever cat burglar, Nico, turns out to be a good guy. There are villains, to be sure, but thanks to tabby tenacity, the good guys win the day.
3 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
Gorgeous hand-drawn animated crime caper featuring a clever cat leading a double life
Distribution: Mainstream limited release
Tempo: Cruises comfortably
Visual Style: Animated/computer
Character Development: Not that kind of film
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Pure entertainment
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You may also want to read about other unusual animated feature films:
The Triplets of Belleville
The Fantastic Mr. Fox