Review of A Cat in Paris

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This light-hearted tale revolves around a cat who lives a secret life as a cat burglar's assistant in Paris and must come to the rescue of Zoe, the little girl he lives with, after she falls into the hands of a gangster
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"A Cat in Paris" Movie Review

-- Rating: PG
Length: 70 minutes
Release Date: December 15, 2010 (Algeria); Limited US release: June 8, 2012
Directed by: Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol
Genre: Animation

Although "A Cat in Paris" was nominated for an Oscar in 2011, it was virtually unheard of in the United States, and it lost to "Rango." However, it was a success in Europe, and now, some US moviegoers will get a chance to see the film themselves when "A Cat in Paris" goes into limited release. If that release is successful, the movie could find its way to more theaters-and it should.
The story is engaging enough: Dino, a black, blue, pink and turquoise cat is the dedicated pet and friend to Zoe (voiced by Lauren Weintraub) by day, but at night, Dino becomes the sidekick to Nico (Steve Blum), a skilled cat burglar who specializes in jewel heists. It is Dino's skill as both friend and thief that helps propel the story.

After Zoe's father, a policeman, is killed, Zoe goes mute from grief. Jeanne, Zoe's mother and the police commissioner (voiced by Marcia Gay Harden), becomes obsessed with finding her husband's killer and leaves her suffering daughter in the hands of the babysitter, Claudine (voiced by Anjelica Huston). Although Zoe is mute, she is as determined as her mother to find her father's killer. It's during her snooping around crime boss and prime suspect Victor Costa that she is kidnapped when she hears too much about an upcoming heist Costa has planned. Upon learning the news, Dino and Nico team up to rescue Zoe before it's too late. They also have to convince Jeanne that Nico isn't all bad.

The movie itself is rather dizzying because there is a lot going on. Each character has a storyline inside the main plot, but the directors do a good job of tying them all together at the end. The movie itself is dark, both in terms of plot and visual effects, especially as much of it takes place at night. The drawing style is different from what most US moviegoers are used to seeing, but it makes for a refreshing change of pace from the usual Pixar or Disney animated fare. The movie bounces from serious to silly quite a bit, which can be a bit disconcerting, but when you consider the movie is about a cat turned catnapper and a catnapper turned hero, it works. Also, the storyline is propelled by a murder, which is generally going to mean a rather dark, sometimes bleak movie, even if it is animated.

The animated characters portray human emotions quite well. It is understandable that Zoe suffers hysterical muteness at the sudden loss of her father, just as it is understandable that Jeanne become obsessed with finding her husband's killer. It is also easy to understand how that obsession could leave Jeanne too preoccupied to notice how much her daughter is suffering. She will be unable to offer peace of mind to her daughter until she can restore it in herself, and that won't happen until the killer is caught.

Also, it is not unusual for a child to turn to her pet at a time of grief. Pets have always given people a sense of comfort, so for Zoe to turn to her cat for solace and friendship makes sense. Even Nico's reluctance to help Dino find Zoe is acceptable. Nico is, a criminal, and he is now being forced to deal with not just any law enforcement but the police commissioner. Criminals try not to cross paths with law enforcement, yet Nico finds himself teaming up with it. Of course, Jeanne is smart to question Nico's motivations initially.

Overall, the movie has a good feel to it, though it might be too intense for children. Although the ending is a tad cliché, seeing the characters run from rooftop to rooftop in black and white is impressive.

"A Cat in Paris" is a welcome addition to animated movies in the United States. It gives US movie goers a chance to see what those in other countries see on a regular basis, and it could lead to more Americans seeing foreign films and more foreign films making their way to US movie screens. If you get a chance to view "A Cat in Paris," you should. It's well worth the 70 minutes.

Stars: 4 out of 5