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Pepé Le Pew better not mess with this cat.
on April 15, 2013
I still remember the first time I saw the box for A Cat in Paris a few months ago. I was looking for a movie for my daughter, and then I saw it- something I never saw or even heard of before. Whenever I see a new, mysterious animated movie pop up on the shelf like that, it always gets me interested. It's no secret that Disney and Dreamworks dominate animation these days, and to see something with a cool look to it like A Cat in Paris does, is a breath of fresh air. Sadly, I was stuck watching the English dub version when I was able to watch it, causing me to put up with a very pitiful performance or two. It may not seem fair to factor that into my review, so if I can watch the movie with the French voices, I'll up the rating...provided that they ARE better.
Zoe is a young girl living with her mom, Jeanne, in Paris. Her father was killed by a nasty gangster, Victor Costa, and it's left Jeanne (who works on the police force) a little obsessed with catching the murderer. She has nightmares about Costa, in the form of a red octopus for some reason, coming after her, and all her efforts to stop him being ineffective. Zoe also has her babysitter, Claudine, for support, but her main friend seems to be her cat that leaves every night and brings her back a lizard. Zoe doesn't talk at all, seemingly traumatized by what happened with her dad, and it doesn't help that her own mom barely pays attention to her. Meanwhile, Costa is still at large with his henchmen and they're looking to steal a huge African statue that's about to be displayed at the local museum. We also see that the cat just so happens to work with Nico, a burglar in the area. Nico just steals jewelry, never hurting anyone to get what he wants. Can you guess what's going to happen with these groups once Zoe follows the cat and Nico one night?
First, I want to mention how nice the animation is in A Cat in Paris. It's nothing brilliant or beautiful, yet the look works, fitting the mood and tone of the story. Watching Nico's body flow like a snake as he creeps around in the opening sequence got me a little more interested in the movie, wondering how serious everything here was going to be. For the most part, characters move and behave realistically, except for Nico when he's sneaking and being stealthy. My absolute favorite part of the animation was a simple white line on black segment where Nico is moving through a dark room with night vision goggles on. Simple, but great! It adds a very unique quality to the character that I liked. The settings also caught my eye with how colorful locations were, even with the majority of the movie taking place at night. I'd love to see some production sketches and paintings if any are available. It's too bad an 'Art of' book for this movie hasn't been made! The film's soundtrack is also very fitting, blending with the visuals perfectly. This movie has a ton of style and I'd love to see more like this. Finally there's the cat, who admittedly doesn't get enough screen time. I loved how he would step in when needed to help with an escape, doing his part in a fight, and especially when he'd just casually walk by the neighbor's dog, causing it to bark and get silenced by the owner. The cat rules.
...ok as you can see the good things I said had to do with the art, music and the cat himself. Why? Because everything else threw me off. The plot isn't terrible, just done to death. Luckily the movie's very short and doesn't drag on, even with the sub-par story. I would've liked more to be done with Jeanne's nightmares instead of just seeing octo-Costa laughing and not doing a whole lot to her. Don't take that the wrong way, as I didn't want to see horrible things done to her, but all he does is laugh for the most part! Jeanne was a very boring character to me as well, only showing emotion when she found out where Costa is, and again later when something big happens. She's just a bland character that could almost be taken out of the movie entirely. In fact, she could! Nico serves as the main hero, more or less, with Jeanne being there because it's standard for a parent to be involved with films like this. And as much as I love the art of this movie, I didn't care much for the lack of facial expressions when it came to Jeanne and Nico. Costa and his boys had some nice expressions here and there, so what happened with these two? The little twist during the film's climax also seemed out of place, even with it being semi-explained before it takes place.
Then there's the voice acting. Dear lord...I know Marcia Gay Harden is a fairly accomplished actress, but the woman should NOT have been cast for the role of Jeanne. Her acting here is the most stale, sleep-inducing work I've heard in an animated film in years. This brings up my point about big names being cast for animated movies when voice actors, trained to do this kind of thing, are plentiful and could use the work. Nope! She got the job instead, and did horribly with it. Ben Stein has more emotion when he talks for god's sake. They even got Anjelica Huston to play the role of Claudine, a fairly large role in the first half of the movie, then goes to waste in no time. The other actors do fine, fortunately.
A Cat in Paris didn't leave much of a lasting impression on me, save for the poor voice acting fiasco, and I doubt I'll watch it again in the future. It's hard to recommend this to any specific groups- the movie doesn't have any blood, no sense of danger due to Costa's men not being much of a threat, and only really has one fight scene. Yet I can't really recommend it to kids under 10, and it lacks a lot of substance for it to be for anyone aside from animation junkies. Due to the short runtime though, there are worse ways to kill an hour of your time. If you have the option to watch it in French, I'm pretty sure you'll be better off, even having not heard it this way.
Even Shaq would have been a better choice over Harden.