I love my Disney, and I love my Dreamworks, and I love my Pixar, but sometimes it’s nice to go outside the United States to see what other countries are up to in the world of animation (besides anime).
“A Cat in Paris” is a wonderful example, a fun film from France’s Folimage animation studio that was one of last year’s Academy Award nominees.
I am curious about how the Academy defines feature-length and shorts since this film barely goes over the hour mark, but that’s a technicality that in no way detracts from the experience of watching this little gem.
Dino is a cat with a double life: By day, he’s the pet of Zoe, a little girl mourning the death of her father and struggling to connect with her workaholic mom. By night, he joins cat burglar Nico on the rooftops of Paris. In between, he annoys the heck out of a yappy dog.
When the two worlds meet, it’s a grand adventure full of intrigue, danger and adventure for Dino and all his humans.
The movie is a delight from start to finish, with bold animation and some terrific voice work from the U.S. dub cast. Marcia Gay Harden, Anjelica Huston and Matthew Modine are the three bigger names involved, but don’t count out anime stalwart Steve Blum as Nico, who shows why I’m still enamored of that voice years after “Cowboy Bebop.”
Blum isn’t the only anime connection. The English voice director is Michael Sinterniklaas, a longtime voice veteran in all sorts of series, from “Bleach” to “TMNT” to “Venture Bros.” to “Care Bears.” Stephanie Sheh, also from “Bleach,” “Care Bears,” et al, is his casting director. (Most people won’t care, but if Google can bring some anime fans to this review and get them to watch this movie, mission accomplished.)
The important thing is that Sinterniklaas pulls some great performances out of his cast, better than you hear on a lot of dubs of foreign animation.
I will admit, the style takes a bit of getting used to, but it’s totally worth it. The visuals from graphic designer Jean-Loup Felicioli match the story by Alain Gagnol (both also directed). The color palette is rich with deep blues and reds, and they set off the Paris backdrop nicely.
But being pretty doesn’t matter if the story isn’t there, and the story is definitely there. It’s a caper in the Disney tradition but with a little French flair. Dino would probably talk in a Disney version. But there’s no need as the movie isn’t really about him, just told from his perspective, in a way. It’s about Zoe and Nico, each in their own world with only a cat (and a crime boss) to bring them together.
I mentioned before the film is pretty short, but it’s just as long as it needs to be. There are no wasted moments, and nothing drags more than it should. The action sequences are crisp and quick, and the humor shines through — especially in the opening sequence. The climax on the walls of Notre Dame is a nail-biter.
With heroes to cheer, yappy dogs to laugh at and villains to despise, “A Cat in Paris” is so much more than I was expecting and a must-see for any animation fan. It’s rated PG for action violence and some thematic stuff (dead dad), but it’s nothing you don’t see in a lot of Disney movies. It may not be for the little ones, but kids and adults will find a lot to love.