MOVIES THAT DON’T SUCK: ‘A Cat in Paris’ is where it’s at

Of all 23 movies we’ve reviewed, only one of them isn’t rated R, and that one was PG-13. When you’re a kid, the only difference between PG-13 and R is that your parents argue for a little bit before telling you no.

Well, I guess a few are unrated, but those are even less likely to earn the seal of parental approval.

The point is, the amount of child-friendly material featured on this blog is disproportionately low to the amount of children’s films and TV programming I consume daily.

So, without further ado, I present to you “A Cat in Paris” (“Une Vie de Chat”).

As can be expected of an independent, foreign-language animated film, “A Cat in Paris” had a somewhat limited release in the U.S. That is, until a 2010 Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature boosted its signal considerably.

The film is the story of three characters: Zoe ( a young girl traumatized into muteness by her father’s murder), Nico (a wiry cat burglar) and Dino (a cat).

By day, Dino leads the life of a lazy housecat, bringing dead lizards to Zoe and sleeping on her furniture. By night, he spends his time as an assistant to Nico as he leaps from building to building, robbing people blind while they sleep.

One night, Zoe sneaks out after Dino and overhears some gangsters talking about their plans to steal an African artifact and is subsequently kidnapped, leaving Dino and Nico to clean up the mess.

The most striking part of “A Cat in Paris” is its art style.

While I’m a fan of 3D and all that it’s capable of, I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for a film done in classic animation.

“Cat” is all hand-drawn with colored pencil in a style that’s a veritable love letter to 19th-century Impressionism. The dominating feeling that the animation leaves you with is that it just seems so alive.

Characters, objects and shadows, especially, have that certain flicker that comes from “imprecise” drawing, a quality that only serves to strengthen the handcrafted atmosphere of the film.

In the daytime, the scenes are bursting with vibrant colors. At night, everything is decidedly more mellow, with the light of the Paris streets and the moon creating beautiful shadows.

One of my favorite scenes is when Nico and Dino reach the top of a building, treating the audience to a panoramic view of Paris in the moonlight.

In terms of plot structure, “Cat” is a noir film, purified of the genre’s usual profanity and cut down to just over an hour long.

Despite the 64-minute run time, none of the plot seems rushed at all. Sure, characters are constantly going from one location and plot point to the next, but that’s just the nature of the film, and it works perfectly.

Of course, there isn’t much growing to be done in just an hour, but that’s okay too. Everyone just plays their role. The gangsters are jerks, Nico’s a lovable rogue, Zoe is cute and Dino’s, well, a cat.

A notable exception is Zoe’s mother Jeanne (Dominique Blanck), who, throughout the film’s events, learns that her time might be more meaningfully spent with her daughter rather than finding the murderer of her father.

Unfortunately, the only version available for streaming on Netflix is the English dub, but there’s no real difference between that and the subtitled French version. I’ve seen both, and there isn’t much lost in translation. Moreover, characters aren’t the most realistically drawn things, so there’s no awkwardness with the syncing.

Personally, I prefer the subbed over the dubbed version, but that’s only because I saw the former before the latter. If I had done the opposite, I’m sure I would be singing a different tune.

Language preferences aside, “A Cat in Paris” is an enchanting movie. If you have a kid, ever were a kid or, like me, never gave up your childhood love of cartoons, give it a try.


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