I’m starting to acquire an appreciation for when the Academy nominates an animated film I haven’t heard of. While it’s easy to look at the Best Animated Feature category and wonder why some big hit didn’t get nominated and some ultra-obscure foreign cartoon did, I have to say that when I’ve checked out those unknown films, it has reliably been rewarding. The Secret of Kells was beautiful, The Illusionist was touching, and I’ve gone on the record as saying that The Triplets of Belleville should have won its year.
I wouldn’t rank A Cat in Paris quite that highly, but I would happily add it to the list of quality nominees.
A day in the life of a typical cat burglar and atypical cat.
A Cat in Paris is about a young girl named Zoe and her widowed mother Jeanne, a police inspector. Zoe has been mute ever since the murder of her father by a ruthless mob boss, and there is distance between her and her mother due to her mother’s need to be at work frequently. The greatest warmth she shows is to her cat, who leads a double life. By day, the cat is content to lounge around at home, fetch lizards for Zoe and generally be a kid’s pet. At night, the cat slips out and goes to his other home, where he aids cat burglar Nico in pulling off minor art heists. The humans’ paths collide when the mob boss returns to Paris to steal a famed statue from an art exhibit. Zoe and Jeanne have to face their fears and Nico has to face his conscience when the villain’s plans put Zoe in the crosshairs.
Although family-friendly, there is definitely enough substance here for an adult to enjoy the movie. There are a few small surprises here and there, but mostly it works because it keeps a brisk pace that maintains a steady level of excitement once the action gets going. There are also flashes of humor here and there, which are adapted well in the English translation; fans of heist films and gangster movies are going to catch several references throughout.
The art style admittedly takes some getting used to, as it’s a little more abstract than is typical. It’s not quite cubist, but the way perspective is sometimes ignored brings the style to mind. However, this is only an issue until the viewer adjusts, and the art style lends itself well to the fast pace that the story sets. It wants to give the impression of speed, and with its fluid motions and simplified body forms, it succeeds at that.
They’d probably be ugly mugs in any animation style, but the sideways noses don’t help them any.
It’s a film that probably isn’t going to be to everybody’s tastes, but personally I found it to be quite a bit of fun once it got going. It’s certainly worth a look for anybody who is willing to expand their animation borders a bit.