When it comes to animated features, Disney’s Pixar Animation Studios seems to hold all the cards. From humble beginnings with a little film called Toy Story, it has gone on to produce eleven full-length efforts to date (including sequels Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3), with box office profits following every single one. Although the technical skill of Pixar’s work is undeniable, much of their success stems from the ability to craft stories that engage audiences young and old.Whether telling tales of animated insects (A Bug’s Life), superhero families (The Incredibles), talking automobiles (Cars) or lonely robots (WALL-E), their features connect with both children and adults, making for a cinema experience the whole family can enjoy.
In their sixth collaboration, directors Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol (who also shares writing credits with Jacques-Rémy Girerd) capitalise upon their previous partnerships (shorts L’egoïste, Le nez à la fenêtre, Le couloir and Mauvais temps, and series Les tragédies minuscules) in an endeavour to fill the same niche. Although their offering may not quite manage to mirror the universal appeal of the American efforts, A Cat In Paris makes a fine attempt at creating an accessible and enjoyable piece of French animated cinema.
Basing its premise on a question that many cat lovers have pondered – the mystery of what cats get up to when their owners are asleep – A Cat In Paris weaves a whimsical narrative of action, adventure, love and loyalty. On the one hand it explores the unique relationship between children and their pets, particularly in the absence of a strong parental bond. On the other hand, the film ventures into thrilling territory with a high stakes tale of crime and intrigue.
As the two come together with feline friend Dino in the middle, the feature unravels themes of acceptance and belonging as well as touching upon grief and mourning, in an effort that has a much stronger sense of emotional resonance than it initially seems. With plenty of slapstick humour to regale the kids, and even an unlikely shout-out to Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs for the adults (the gang of crooks argue over code names, particularly the merits of being called Mr Potato), A Cat In Paris may appear slight however it still has substance behind its engaging and enchanting exterior.
Cute, clever and utterly charming, the artfully animated A Cat In Paris is a mystery, adventure and tale of friendship all rolled into one. Although skewed towards a younger audience, it is filled with hidden depth that offers a fun film experience for viewers of all ages.
A Cat in Paris is screening as part of the Alliance Française French Film Festival 2011.