A Cat in Paris was one of two films nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar earlier this year that most Americans would not have even heard of. It’s a small French film that doesn’t even run a whole hour when you take out the credits, and yet, it’s plenty of time to tell a fully-formed story that comes off as a little different than those we’re used to seeing in the average animated film, and by that I mean it’s a little darker than you might expect.
The film starts off with a thief, Nico (Voice of Bruno Salomone), pulling a jewel heist accompanied by a cat. Once the heist is done, Nico returns to his home and the cat to his family. Dino, as the cat is called, actually belongs to a little girl named Zoe (Voice of Oriane Zani), daughter of Jeanne (Voice of Dominique Blanc), a police detective. We learn that Dino has led this double life for awhile, going out at night with Nico while spending the day with Zoe, who has no idea where he goes every evening.
Meanwhile, Jeanne is working on the case of a criminal, Victor Costa (Voice of Jean Benguigui), who is planning to steal a statue. He just also happens to be the one who murdered Jeanne’s husband, making this a personal mission for her. One night, Zoe decides to follow Dino to see where he goes and happens to overhear Victor conspiring with her nanny (Voice of Bernadette Lafont). Once she is discovered, her life is put in grave danger. However, help ends up coming from an unlikely source.
One of the strengths of the film is how it’s able to combine these two stories into one fast-paced adventure. It starts off as a seemingly-simple story about a cat leading two lives, but then quickly becomes much darker as we discover what Zoe’s mother is attempting to do. This could merely be their attempt to appeal to both kids and adults, but it ends up working to the film’s advantage as it offers something for both groups.
The style of animation here is also quite different from other animated films. It’s not really comparable to the likes of Pixar, DreamWorks, or Studio Ghibli. It’s more comparable to a Picasso painting come to life. Shapes and motion seem oddly distorted. It may look a little strange, even a bit cartoonish, but the style works well and still gives the film a good amount of depth despite being hand-drawn.
It even works well for the films thrilling sequences which include rooftop chases, a daring rescue in the dark where the drawing style turns into simple lines, and a conclusion that takes place on the roof of Notre Dame Cathedral. These sequences help make what was already a fast-paced movie even faster as each turn of the story unfolds, bringing all of the characters together for its big finish.
It is a very short film, even for an animated feature, but when it’s able to complete a well-rounded story in that amount of time, there’s not really any reason to complain about it. In fact, the winner of the Best Animated Feature Oscar for last year, Rango, could have learned a lot from this film as it had been far too stretched out in trying to tell a simple story in a film that ended up running for nearly two hours.
A Cat in Paris has already been around awhile having been released in France and several other countries in late 2010, as well as having played at several film festivals, but is just now getting a limited release in the states. It’s a fun and exciting film that both kids and adults can enjoy and is definitely worth checking out should it end up at a theater near you.