A Cat in Paris
A view of Paris that gives paws
Nominated for a best animated feature Oscar this year, “A Cat in Paris” has a low-key charm and pleasurably laconic visual style. There’s little wasted motion or detail — which is as it should be for a movie that clocks in at barely an hour, minus closing credits and the amusing (if not very feline-friendly!) cartoon short that precedes it, “The Extinction of the Saber-Toothed House-Cat.” It’s refreshing, in fact, to see an animated feature that’s so compact. Think how much better Pixar’s “Brave” might be if it were 10 or 15 minutes shorter.
Dino, the title creature, is a very cool cat indeed. By day, he lives with a young girl, Zoe; Zoe’s mother, Jeanne; and a servant, Claudine (whose preferred perfume is definitely not Chanel). By night, Dino accompanies Nico, a cat burglar, as he prowls the rooftops of Paris in pursuit of valuables. Nico’s pretty cool himself. How cool? The musical accompaniment to one of his nocturnal forays is Billie Holiday’s “I Wished on the Moon.” He sports a pair of night-vision goggles and gets around with a gymnastic ease that even Dino would be hard pressed to match.
Dino isn’t the only connection Zoe shares with Nico. Her mother is a police superintendent. (Law-enforcement officials must be paid much better in France than here: Boy, the apartment they have!) Nico’s burglaries are among the crimes on her docket. But her biggest criminal concern is Victor Costa, the gangster who killed her husband. A famous statue is about to be transported to the Louvre, and Jeanne knows that Costa wants it.
Costa is alternately clownishly comic and menacingly evil. His presence bespeaks the biggest problem with “A Cat in Paris”: the question of intended audience. It’s too opaque for kids. There’s a pretty explicit allusion to “Reservoir Dogs,” and a climactic fight sequence atop Notre Dame cathedral is straight out of Tim Burton’s “Batman.” Yet at the same time it’s too cartoony (you’ll forgive the expression) for grown-ups. “A Cat in Paris” falls between two stools — or fauteuils, as the case might be.
Mark Feeney can be reached at email@example.com.