Traditional animation has sadly been all but lost amidst the explosion of computer-generated “big Hollywood” cartoons over the last 15 years. Even films such as The Princess and the Frog were CG made to look like it was old-school 2D. Those hand-drawn films that have crept into the US theatrical distribution pipeline recently have largely been imports. Oscar-nominated (Best Animated Feature Film, 2012) A Cat in Paris (Une vie de chat) is just such a movie ensuring that art form is not lost. Hit the jump for my review of A Cat in Paris on Blu-ray.
Titular cat Dino spends each day as the pet of Zoé (French: Oriane Zani / English: Lauren Weintraub) and her police superintendent mom Jeanne (Dominique Blanc / Marcia Gay Harden)–but each night he accompanies kind-hearted cat burgular Nico (Bruno Salomone / Steve Blum) on his thieveries. One fateful evening Zoé–who has not spoken since mobster Victor Costa (Jean Benguigui / JB Blanc) killed her father–decides to follow her feline friend on his nightly escapades, bringing her face-to-face with Costa and his gang in the midst of a job to steal the Colossus of Nairobi. As Zoé try to escape the murderous intentions of her father’s killer, Dino connects her with an unlikely ally in Nico, who does his best to help the girl despite being pursued by Jeanne himself.
A Cat in Paris is a slightly more mature animated movie, with some mild action/violence (gun shots, chases) and plot points (kidnapping) that garner the film its PG rating. None of this is extreme, by any means, but it is darker in tone than your standard Looney Tunes violence, so it may be too intense for very young viewers who are easily scared–but only the youngest and most easily bothered.
The hand-drawn animation has a very artsy, illustrated children’s book / European comic book style that I greatly enjoyed. Not only is that style a throwback to the pre-computer days, but one not seen in mainstream Hollywood-studio releases at all.
At a mere 62 minutes, A Cat in Paris moves at a rollicking pace, cramming an awful lot of story and action into a tiny timeframe. Such plot activity in such little time does come at the expense of structural deficiencies and character development (the characters are decidedly one-note and lacking in breadth). Serge Besset’s score is fantastic, exhibiting a sonic duality of oh-so-Paris jazz sequences contrasted with thrilling, big-budget actioner orchestral pieces very reminiscent of The Dark Knight for the rooftop adventures.
The picture looks fantastic, sharp with crisp but wisely not oversatured colors. The DTS-HD audio is outstanding, utilizing the 5.1 channels very intelligently. Furthermore, animation is perhaps the one type of foreign film that is not awkward to watch dubbed vs subtitled; indeed, I’ve seen many foreign animated movies on DVD/Blu-ray that did not include the original language track altogether. Although the English dub is the primary audio track, this release of A Cat in Paris does also include the French with subtitles.
Supplemental materials are slim, with the amusing one-gag 2D / live action / CGI short “Extinction of the Saber-Toothed Housecat” leading the pack. Other than trailers, the only other extra is “The Many Lives of a Cat” Video Flipbook, which navigates viewers through the various stages of making Cats (and somewhat animated films in general). Some great unused concept art is included therein.
All in all, A Cat in Paris is a fun film for all ages, charming and fun, a more mature animated movie that can hold the interest of adults while not being too old for children.