Five months after joining Chico & Rita as a surprise nominee in the Best Animated Film Oscar category, the French flick A Cat in Paris – now with English dubbing courtesy of Oscar nominees Marcia Gay Harden and Anjelica Huston, among others – hits the big screen in Atlanta. Part serious noir, part silly crime caper and part classic children’s animated tale, it’s as wily as the furry cat at its center.
A Cat in Paris provides a playful answer to the question every indoor/outdoor cat owner has asked at some point: What the hell do cats do when they’re out and about at night?
For Dino, the feline star of A Cat in Paris, a typical night sees him slinking out the window, scurrying across a few alleyways and entering the home of Nico, a young thief who spends his evenings breaking into houses and making off with whatever loot he can get his hands on. Dino joins Nico for these late-night excursions and even brings home a pricy souvenir one morning.
In contrast, Dino’s days are spent living the typical suburban pet lifestyle and cozying up to little Zoe, a mute girl whose cop father was tragically killed in the line of duty and whose mother Jeanne (voiced by Harden) is focused on hunting down the gangster who ended his life.
One evening, Zoe decides to follow Dino out on his evening adventures, a fateful decision that causes her to not only cross paths with Nico but also Victor Costa, the thug who killed her dad. Zoe’s attempts to evade Costa take her from zoo interiors to Paris backstreets to museum rooftops. Can she survive, and will the unlikely duo of Dino and Nico be her saviors?
The hand-drawn A Cat in Paris passes the most important test of any animated film: It’s fun to look at. Directors Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol take full advantage of the rich Parisian nighttime backdrop, taking viewers on an eye-popping ride as Nico stretches and snakes over rooftops, across buildings and mere inches outside of security gates. And when the story dictates, the visuals grow surreal or unusual, such as when characters morph into black-and-white outlines when the lights go out during one key scene.
The plot is fairly standard stuff, but Felicioli keep the story fresh by injecting it with humor, referencing classic films – Mr. Pink, anyone? – and jumping smoothly between genres. The moody score helps keep things hopping too.
Still, it’s the visuals that carry that day, right through to A Cat in Paris' dizzying climax atop Notre Dame. This is the City of Light as you’ve never seen it.
"A Cat in Paris" opens in Atlanta on June 29 at the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema.
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