Considering the volume and variety of family-friendly animated films that come down the pike, it’s curious that they all offer essentially the same movie-watching experience: A kid-friendly story with kid-friendly jokes, the occasional stealthy double entendre aimed at parents, and varying levels of animated wizardry.
With the good stuff, you’ll get rich characters and real comic artistry (Fantastic Mr. Fox, the Pixar canon). With the lousy stuff, you get rebooted fairy tales and cheap pop cultre riffing (Shrek, anything with chipmunks).
The French import and 2012 Academy Award nominee A Cat in Paris goes in another direction entirely. It provides a kind of Hitchcock-lite experience for kids and a sumptuous visual feast for the grown-ups. The film follows the adventures of Dino, a Parisian house cat owned by a sad little girl named Zoe. At night, Dino travels across the city by rooftop to join his other companion, the skillful cat burglar Nico.
As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that this is no ordinary kids’ movie. The plot, as twisty and lithe as Dino, concerns an art heist, a wicked crime lord, and unexpected connections among the characters. At its heart is the damaged little girl Zoe, her mom (a Paris cop) and the brave, resourceful cat.
The film uses hand-drawn animation, a technique so old it’s actually new again. No computers. No 3-D. No claymation. Just quirky, off-kiler images stitched together with care and artistry.