Film Review – A Cat in Paris
A Cat in Paris is a delightfully animated tale that keeps you entertained the whole way through. When the Academy Award nominations were announced last year for Best Animated Feature, I was thrilled that A Cat in Paris and Chico and Rita were nominated. I had not even seen either one yet, but the fact that two independent foreign films got in was, to me, a great sign. Just having beautiful graphics (à la Cars 2) was not enough to be deemed a worthy animated film. A Cat in Paris isn’t breaking new ground with its subject matter, but directors Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol keep us involved with its story with beautiful animation, a sense of fun, and strong characters.
Our lead is Dino the cat. He is a good kitty. He is always there to cuddle with his owner Zoe (Lauren Weintraub, in the U.S. version), a sad child whose father was murdered by Victor Costa (JB Blanc), a local crime lord. The trauma of her father’s death has caused Zoe to lose her voice and made her withdrawn. It doesn’t help that her mother, Jeanne (Marcia Gay Harden), is the police commissioner and is busy with hunting Victor Costa, so she is watched after mainly by Claudine (Anjelica Houston), the housekeeper. While Dino comforts Zoe during the day, at night, like many cats, he goes off and prowls. He is not alone however. He is out with Nico (Steve Blum), a charming cat burglar who uses Dino as a lookout and companion during his nighttime robberies. This dual life is turned on its head when Zoe follows Dino out one night and Zoe, Nico, and Dino get into deeper trouble.
The story is pretty straightforward in its telling, yet the way that our characters get through it is what makes it fun. For starters, the animation is very pretty, with slightly exaggerated features of the characters and the buildings. It fits the world the writers want to create. This works especially with the chase and jumping sequences across the buildings. It makes for a visually interesting story, while also giving us a sense of wonder. The humor is also quite good, using a nice combination of visual and dialogue gags, but never having them over take the story. The people are the main draw.
Nico is the rogue that you want to root for. He is charming and obviously enjoys having Dino with him on his robberies. When he is around Zoe and Dino we also see that, while a criminal, he is not all bad. Jeanne, the mother, also has her own arc. She is haunted by what happened to her husband and wants to be closer to Zoe, yet is held back by her work and her daughter’s limited ability to express herself. She loves her daughter and she is trying her best. Zoe doesn’t get to develop as much as a character, but we see that she is a little girl who is just wondering why the world seems so unfair, and yet still has a sense of innocence to her, especially around Dino.
Dino is thankfully a non-talking animated animal. Yet there are some beautiful touches that give him some strong characteristics. The way he bounces on prey with playful determination and the way he stands just where a dog can see him to make the dog go nuts feels very feline. The way he jumps and slithers in and around his people is lovely and touching. Seeing him get angry and attack when his people are threatened makes him very lovable early on, and we can see why Zoe and Nico love him.
On the other end, Victor Costa is played as slightly unhinged. He terrifies his own goons with his rants. We never see him being straight-up violent, and his rants can be humorous as well, but we can tell he is capable of violence, which makes the threat he represents to the heroes feel real. They have actual troubles to overcome, and we are never certain how the end result will come about. They go to some surprising places, even if we can sense the kind of ending the film will have.
I had fun with this movie. It is the kind of film that makes you feel like a child again, wanting to root for the good guys and hope for a happy ending. The characters are fun and sympathetic, the animation is pretty, and it gives us what we want from this light story. It may not move beyond that goal but, for what it is, it is very satisfying. And who doesn’t like seeing a kitty claw and bite bad guys?
Final Grade: B+