“A Cat in Paris” is an enjoyable lightweight animation – and I had a good time with this breezy entertainment. Though it is pretty short(the running time is less than 70 minutes), but that is enough for its simple adventure tale of an adorable mute girl, a good-hearted criminal, and one likable pussycat which happens to be shared by them without their knowledge.
Zoé(voiced by Oriane Zani) has been mute since she lost her father, a cop who was killed in the pursuit of one of the most notorious criminals in Paris. Her mother Jeanne(voiced by Dominique Blanc), who is also a cop and worked with her husband, is also still hurt by her husband’s death, but she must work to support her little daughter. While her mother goes out for a work, Zoé is taken care of by her nanny(voiced by Bernadette Lafont), whose perfume seems to smell far more nauseating than its soft purple color suggests.
Zoé spends her daytime mostly in her bedroom, but she has one black cat as her close friend. It has a rather unpleasant of hunting lizards outside the house and then giving them to Zoé, but she is not disgusted about that, and we see the box full of carcasses of those unlucky lizards. Well, because this is the animation film, so it is less disgusting to look than you think, and at least it is certainly far less disgusting to appreciate than my childhood pencil case full of slimy snails or cute wood louses.
We know from the beginning that the cat has been leading a double life. Besides spending some time with Zoé during the afternoon, it has a secret night life with a young burglar named Nico(voiced by Bruno Salomone). He and the cat swiftly move above the rooftops without being noticed, and then Nico smoothly sneaks into his target building while evading the watchful eyes of night guards with the flexible agility probably only possible in the world of animation.
Through the cell animation drawn with care and details, the director Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol provide the beautiful and lovely background for their story. The streets and buildings of Paris are drawn with a broad, warm pastel style, and it is especially wonderful to look at when it shows the night landscape of Paris. Sure, we have encountered Paris many times through other movies and animations before, but this case is as good as it can be.
The characters are also drawn like broad caricatures, so you can instantly sense which character is good or bad. Though he is not wearing a black hat or a mustache to be twirled, it goes without saying that the crime boss Victor Costa(voiced by Bruno Benguigui) is certainly a vicious hateful criminal you don’t want to mess with. This mean guy is also quite a megalomaniac, and he is determined to steal one big valuable artifact from Nairobi, Kenya, with which he alarmingly obsessed with. I may say his relatively short stature compared to his bumbling henchmen tells a lot about his obsession.
What is their plan, by the way? I don’t know, and the story does not waste its time on the explanation; they seem to have some plan, and Jeanne and her colleagues know well that Costa is determined to snatch the artifact by any means necessary like he was during the previous attempt in which he killed Jeanne’s husband. She becomes busier than before while having to deal with the serial burglary case, so she spends less time with her daughter. It’s hard for Jeanne because she is concerned about Zoé, but she has the works to do.
The second half of the story is about how the characters get involved with each other and how their encounters are led to the adventurous night to remember. At one night, Zoé gets out of her house to follow her cat out of curiosity, but she gets more than she wishes for unfortunately. She comes upon Costa and his accomplices when they discuss about their plan. She immediately runs away from them, but she is quickly cornered by them – and Costa does not like a potential witness.
Fortunately for her, Nico saves her from her imminent danger by chance, but they soon find themselves chased by Costa and his equally ineffectual gangs. In one scene, when they see Zoé getting away from them by the boat on the pond, they just go straight into the pond instead of going around it to the reach the other side. I really doubt whether they will really be able to steal that big stature even if they are not noticed by the police.
But they are not so bad at running along or jumping between the rooftops, so we get a couple of good exciting sequences where the characters do some stunts at the high places including that famous cathedral in Paris. There is indeed the danger with the Hitchcockian touches, but, because this is an animation film, they look less perilous, so we can enjoy them along with the outrageous but humorous end to its climactic moment.
Like “Chico and Rita”(2010), another charming cell animation, “A Cat in Paris” was a surprise nominee for Best Animation Oscar early in this year. Though I think its thin plot is stretched a little too much for the feature film length, this is a delightful animation on the whole, and I liked Zoé’s cat as much as its friends even though it does not talk. Now I wish the cats in my campus can be as sociable as that cat.