A 'Cat' Burglar, Stealing His Way Through Paris
The Academy Award for Best Animated Feature was introduced in 2001, and throughout its brief history, it's mostly been a mechanism through which to honor whatever Pixar does every year.
Yet the act of choosing nominees from the very shallow pool of feature-length animated movies has resulted in some encouraging side effects. Sometimes the nominees are a bit of a stretch — we're looking at you, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius — but the Oscar spotlight has occasionally given a lift to relative obscurities like Sylvain Chomet's The Illusionist and The Triplets of Belleville; or Persepolis, an adaptation of Marjane Satrapi's vivid graphic memoir of growing up Iranian.
Last year's category gave two such curiosities a theatrical boost: First, Spain's Chico & Rita, a vibrant musical set against the backdrops of several major cities in the late '40s and early '50s, and now France's A Cat in Paris, an hourlong trifle that likely wouldn't have seen American theaters otherwise. An argument could certainly be made for the film as a pleasing divertissement, but as an Oscar nominee? Let's just say that the producers were fortunate that Pixar whiffed with Cars 2.
Directors Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol, working from a script by Gagnol and Jacques-Remy Girerd, give A Cat in Paris a lovely handcrafted appeal, full of angular faces, slightly off-center buildings and enchanting rooftop views of the city at night.
But they don't spend much time languishing in atmosphere, because there's an overplotted adventure that needs constant tending, and they've only given themselves 65 minutes to resolve it. (The theatrical release adds an extra three minutes with a one-joke short, "Extinction of the Saber-toothed Housecat," that somehow feels padded by 120 seconds or so.)
The feline in question in the main event is a red-striped black cat named Dino that skitters between two residences. By day, Dino snuggles with 7-year-old Zoe and her detective mother, Jeanne, who are still grieving the death of their father and husband, once Jeanne's colleague on the force. At night, the cat slips off to join Nico, an artful burglar, as he scales buildings, gives bungling security guards the slip, and dashes off with sacks of jewelry.
Worlds collide when Victor Costa, the vicious gangster responsible for killing Zoe's father, kidnaps the little girl in a bid to steal a priceless statue, and Nico becomes her unlikely protector.
For the sake of dramatic convenience, the script renders Zoe mute with grief, so when it comes time to explain to her mother that this thief is her guardian, she doesn't have the words for it. That minor cheat aside, A Cat in Paris moves swiftly through the paces, tying together the various plot strands while paying homage to old-school film noir and modern gangster movies like GoodFellas and Reservoir Dogs.
Though the violence has been ginned up mysteriously and unnecessarily for a family-friendly film — the slapstick abuses dished out to a yapping dog are particularly harsh — there's hardly a frame wasted here.
The trouble with A Cat in Paris lies not in its orchestration, which is mostly impeccable, but with what little is being orchestrated. It's well plotted but a little rote, clever but a far cry from ingenious, attractive but not particularly evocative. When it ends, it leaves behind the faintest of paw prints. Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
More on Movies
Art Review | May 19, 2013
Don't miss the SFAI class of 2013 and their year-end MFA exhibition at the strange and wonderful Old Mint building. By Sarah Hotchkiss
Theater Review | May 18, 2013
One Helen of Troy was enough trouble for the ancient world. What happens when you get five of them in the same room? By Sam Hurwitt
NPR Film | May 17, 2013
The 12th film based on Gene Roddenberry's '60s sci-fi TV show is the second to star a new group of actors as Kirk, Spock and their crew. J.J. Abrams returns as director, and Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch plays the memorable villain. By David Edelstein
NPR Film | May 17, 2013
A director's film memoir of her theatrical family is transformed by surprising discoveries about her parents' past -- and her own heritage. Sarah Polley's film becomes a superb meditation on how we dramatize memory. (Recommended) By Bob Mondello
The Do List | May 16, 2013
Cy Musiker and David Wiegand scout the Bay Area for things to do this coming weekend and turn up orange peels, music on a mountain, and much more!
Actor-director Katie Aselton could watch Kathryn Bigelow's Point Break a million times. "It totally scoops you up and takes you for a ride," she says.
We've already met Jesse and Celine, twice. In the 1995 film Before Sunset, they had a romantic encounter in Vienna. Nine years later, they found each other in Paris. In this third film, their relationship has progressed another nine years. The romance hasn't left, says director Richard Linklater, it's simply changed.
NPR's Bob Mondello says J.J. Abrams' latest Star Trek film knows how to make the sparks and feelings fly, but doesn't bother making the sparks and feeling matter very much.
The amazing tale of two sisters from a poor neighborhood — who play tennis unlike anyone before them and each reach No. 1 in the world — is one we're not likely to see again.
Also on KQED.org this week ...
We Need You!
Volunteer during our current on-air radio fundraising drive. It's a great way to support KQED Radio with your time. You can really make a difference!
Enter the New "ImageMakers" Screening Room
Enjoy films from present and past seasons of KQED's short independent film series, divided into Animation, Comedy, Drama, and Suspense.