By day, Dino, a Parisian house cat, comforts a girl named Zoé, whose policeman father died in the line of duty and whose policewoman mother is burying herself in work; but by night Dino follows and assists a charismatic cat burglar. But when the criminal gang responsible for Zoé’s father’s death get wind of the cat burglar’s assets, and her mum catches the cat burglar case, both child and cat are sure to find themselves caught in the middle.
As with live action cinema, outside the confines of glossy, big-budget American (and in this case, Japanese) animated productions, the rest of the world finds that, to keep up, in any way, they must press the few advantages that they do have, and when lack of money is an issue the only major advantages are creativity and the willingness to experiment, in both animation and thematic styles.
The results can be hit and miss, but at the very least we get films that look interesting, aren’t just cheap copies of better films that you can find elsewhere and get an insight into what else animation can be used for over simple, child-friendly productions.
Recent films that really hit the mark with the critics (though perhaps not with the mass audiences that they deserve) are Mary and Max (Australian), The Illusionist (French) and The Secret of Kells (various European), which, suffice to say, are all highly recommended by this reviewer. But how does A Cat In Paris measure up?
Well, from the start it is clear that you are about as far away from Disney as you are going to get while staying within a child-friendly format. The style of design and animation can in no way be described as slick, the overall look seeming purposefully ‘hand-drawn’, the character design owing more to modernist artists than to Tex Avery, and a kinetic, pastel colour scheme that brings up memories of old Raymond Briggs adaptations (The Snowman, Father Christmas), but, unfortunately, the film as a whole, though interesting looking, isn’t in the same league as anything mentioned so far.
The story and writing in general is pretty thin, which is fine if the film is being aimed squarely at very young children, but the animation style chosen and the extreme nature of a few of the characters would suggest this might not be the case, so the results are uneven at best.
But worse is the English language voice track, it’s absolutely horrible; literally the most annoying thing I have encountered for quite some time. Some of the chosen voice actors simply can’t act; the accents are all over the place and some of the voices just plain grate. It’s truly awful, so much so that the film’s slight running time of just an hour was a blessed relief. I would hope the original French version is more palatable, but who knows.
If you have children that have to be entertained for an hour or so, A Cat In Paris will probably serve your needs well enough, though there are better options out there. If you’re interested in animation as an art form then it is most certainly worth a look, but dear God, seek out a French language version. If you don’t fall into any of these categories, you should probably give it a miss.
C- grade – for storytelling
B- grade – for animation
D- grade – for voice acting (English Language)
Overall grade – C-
Watch the trailer.