‘A Cat in Paris’: Rob the kitty

June 2, 2012

Nominated for the Oscar as best animated feature (which went to the visually brilliant but drastically unfunny “Rango”), “A Cat in Paris” is a slight but entertaining tale, most noteworthy for going old-school, with hand-drawn animation.

Directed by Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol from a script by Gagnol, this film clocks in at less than 70 minutes. It’s involving and occasionally funny, though its imaginative animation is its best feature.

The titular feline is named Dino. He belongs to a little girl named Zoe – but at night, he goes to visit a cat burglar named Nico (Steve Blum). Dino prowls the rooftops of Paris with Nico, like a good-luck charm trailing in the agile thief’s wake. Then he returns home to Zoe every morning.

Zoe’s mother Jeanne (Marcia Gay Harden) is a widow; she’s also the chief of detectives for the Paris police. Her husband was also a cop, killed in the line of duty by a criminal named Victor Acosta. Zoe hasn’t spoken since her father’s death (though this is never explained) and she’s attended to each day by an Irish nanny, Claudine (Anjelica Huston). Her mother is so consumed with capturing Acosta that she tends to ignore her own daughter.

Eventually, Zoe gets curious where her cat goes each night and follows Dino – right to Nico’s house. Which leads to the moment when the paths of Nico, Zoe and Acosta get tangled up. Suddenly, Nico and Zoe are allies – and, eventually, Jeanne and her assistant, Lucas (Matthew Modine), become part of the chase as well.

But the story is less interesting than the fluid, flickery animation, which captures the glamour and exotic quality of Paris at night. The drawing looks like a cross between the styles of New Yorker cartoonists P.C. Vey and Victoria Roberts.

The cartoony action, however, is never particularly thrilling or witty. The dialogue given to Acosta’s henchmen apparently has lost something in translation. Or else it wasn’t that funny to begin with.

Still, “A Cat in Paris” is never boring. Its imaginative artistry – and brevity – keep you from dwelling on the shortcomings of its story-telling.

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