When I had heard of the Oscar nominations for Best Animated Feature, I was crossing my fingers that Pixar wouldn’t get the usual shoe-in that they tend to get every year. Cars 2 was some of the worst I had ever seen and I was hoping it would mean some foreign animated feature films would get the chance to shine. I was pleasantly surprised to see two films better than I had expected them to be (Puss In Boots and Kung Fu Panda 2), the possible best animated film I saw this year (Rango) and two foreign animated films, one of which is the reason you clicked this review. So how is the French animated feature A Cat in Paris and does it deserve its place for a chance at Oscar gold?
It’s present day in Paris, where we focus in on the lives of two completely different people but share the same thing; a black cat named Dino who splits his nights with Nico, a cat burglar who goes around the city stealing from the ultra rich, and its mornings and days with Zoé, a little girl who feels alone because her mother is always at work, even when she’s at home. This is because her mother Jeanne is the superintendent with the Parisian police department and is on the hunt for the infamous number one criminal Costa, who shot and killed her husband and Zoé’s dad. While Jeanne is searching out leads for Costa, she is also trying to figure out the connection between a cat’s paw prints at the scene of multiple burglar crime scenes.
Hand drawn animation is something I cherish and look for over the new norm of CG animated films. Not to say that what Pixar, Dreamworks, ILM and others do has diminished animation. Considering Rango was one of my favorites of the year will further prove that, as is my excitement for Pixar’s newest film Brave. But there’s something about hand drawn animation that reminds me of growing up on Disney and Don Bluth films, or Saturday morning cartoons that seemed to be more than toy commercials (even though they weren’t). A Cat In Paris has this wit and charm throughout its brief 70 minute running time that you want to spend more time with these fantastic characters. From mute Zoé since her dad was killed, to the suave and noodle body of thief Nico and to the crazed Nico (who has an almost French Joe Pesci feel to him), you have what could have been a simple crime story and elevates it to a higher level.
A tight and sharply written script (by our directing duo) does wonders in this animated Paris, where we have the usual gang of bumbling gangsters that enrages our villain (with a scene that is very reminiscent of one from Goodfellas involving a quiche) is cliche but not once does it come across as eye roll worthy. It’s got some beautifully conceived moments, such as a daring rescue in the dark that gives the animation a white lines on a black background look that, for some strange reason, reminded me of the animation of Don Hertzfeldt. This does look much more polished, though. It’s just a constant fluid animation style that I absolutely fell in love with and hope to see more from this duo in the near future.
A Cat In Paris is a film that deserves to be seen as soon as you can get a copy in your hands. I don’t want to give too much away because it’s a joy to behold on the screen. A few twists and turns and genuine creepy moments with our villain gives way to a roller coaster ride of animation and thankful for a second year in a row to French animation. Do I think it will win the Academy Award? No, I do not but that is not to say it doesn’t deserve it’s nomination. I’m glad the Academy did the right thing and looked outside the box with their animation category and did something for the first time, which was to nominate two foreign animated films for the first time in the same year. If you’re an animation nut like me or want to watch an atypical animated feature film with your kids, you can’t go wrong with this film.