November 27, 2012

Blu-ray Review: A Cat in Paris

Here is a film that I truly wanted to like, and I guess I kind of do, but not as much as I would have expected. The trailer was intriguing, the Academy Award nomination solidified my interest, and a desire to see something different all led me to this moment. A Cat in Paris is a family friendly animated noir film that barely reaches an hour in length as it tells the story of a cat burglar, a kidnapping, a mob boss, and, of course, a cat. It is not quite what I expected, although I am not quite sure what it was that I was expecting. Now, it is not without is moments, but it is not one I foresee many visits too.

Before the credits roll, we are introduced to the cat burglar, Nico. We watch as he stealthily breaks into a building and avoids the roving security guards as he snatches up a sackful of jewelry. He is sneaky, crafty, and knows just what he needs to do, while also playfully teasing the guards as he makes his exit.

Following the credits we are introduced to young Zoe, her black cat, the housekeeper Claudine, and her distant mother, who is with the police department. Zoe does not speak and seems to want nothing more than the attention her mother does not give her. Anyway, as night falls, we follow the cat as he leaves Zoe's side, antagonizes the neighbor's dog, and meets up with the cat burglar, it seems the two are a team.

So, as not to give too much away, the story develops in a way that brings Zoe, Nico, and a dangerous mobster into the same location, leading to chases, misunderstandings, and the required happy ending that these things end to require.

I cannot quite put my finger on it, but the movie failed to truly engage me. The story is fairly straightforward and does not offer any surprises. The tone feels rather flat and lifeless. The characters with their long, expressionless faces, slanted eyes, and a child's level of detail fail to resonate. I did like the nightmares that plague Zoe's mother as well as their early interaction, the sadness that seems to infect the young girl, not to mention the differing reactions between mother and housekeeper to the cat's "gifts."

A Cat in Paris does offer a nice alternative to the Disney aesthetic, but does not quite reach the heights of The Triplets of Belleville, The Secret of Kells, or any given Hayao Miyazaki film. It seems to subscribe to the idea that In order to appeal to a child, the animation should appear to have been done by a child. Clearly, this was not done by a child, but with the blank faces and the fluid ways the bodies move, the idea seems to old true. It just never takes full hold of its fantasy.

Audio/Video. The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. It is a fine looking transfer with rich colors and deep blacks. It is really a solid representation of the animated source, it has that animated shimmer from the source and it just looks right.

Audio is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. It is crisp and clear, although there is not a lot of use of the surrounds, it still sounds really good and the jazz inflected score fills the sound field.

  • The Extinction of the Saber-toothed Housecat. This is a short film that combines traditional hand drawn animation, computer animation, and real world backgrounds into a funny little piece.
  • "The Many Lives of a Cat" Video Flip-book. This takes a look at the development of the tale through a couple script revisions, as well as with storyboards.
  • Trailer. The original US trailer.
Bottomline. While presented in rather fantastical fashion, the tale never seems to fully take off. We are left with an overly simplified conflict that ultimately leaves everyone just a little bit bored. Just because it is different than what we are used to does not make it better. The funny thing is, I think it is worth a watch, there is still some charm to be found here and there throughout its runtime.

Mildly Recommended.

Article first published as Blu-ray Review: A Cat in Paris on Blogcritics.

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