AKA: Une Vie de Chat, A Cat’s Life
Genre: Adventure/Comedy/Crime Drama
Year Released: 2010
Distributor: GKIDS/New Video
Running Time: 65 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: PG
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Phantom Boy, The Rescuers, The Great Mouse Detective, Eleanor’s Secret, Oliver & Company, Spy Kids, Tom & Jerry: The Movie, Patapata Hikousen no Bouken
-The French language track was used for this review.
-A Cat in Paris is the second film animated by Folimage to be distributed by GKIDS. The first being Mia and the Migoo and the third being Phantom Boy which was also from the same directors.
-Anime fans, want to know who plays Nico the cat burglar? It’s Steve Blum. That’s right. Spike Spiegel himself is hanging out with a cat while stealing tons of jewelry.
-Speaking of voice actors more famous in Japanese animation, the voice director in the dub is Michael Sterniklaas who is the dub voice of the main character from Your Name.
-Hilarious in Hindsight: Nico seems to have taken some cues from Ichiro Mihara AKA Wiggly Icchan from Angelic Layer as he sometimes noodles his hands around as he sneaks in the dark.
-A Cat in Paris and another GKIDS film Chico and Rita were two foreign animated films to have been nominated for a year which was previously unheard of. Man, GKIDS has been an underdog at the Academy Awards when a bunch of their distributed films have been getting Oscar nods.
I’ve noticed that cats have shown up in multiple animated features that I’ve covered without me realizing it. It’s as if kitties have been following me around whenever I go whenever I review some random films. Let’s count off some examples I’ve covered so far. I’ve critiqued The Rabbi’s Cat, She and Her Cat, Eleanor’s Secret (only because the Puss in Boots character has a cameo and is on the DVD cover), and I’ve reviewed three different properties from the Kimba the White Lion/Jungle Emperor Leo series. Unlike any of those prior reviews, the animals featured don’t talk. There’s probably a joke about telling people in the furry fandom to calm down somewhere. Anyways, I’m here to cover a French animated film that deals with a cat that has a double life.
A Cat in Paris is about a cat named Dino who assists a burglar named Nico with his heists while also being a family pet to a widowed police superintendent named Jeanne and her daughter Zoe. The daughter in question is mute after being traumatized by her father’s death at the hands of the criminal mastermind Victor Costa. Jeanne has been investigating Nico’s thefts around Paris while also trying to put Victor behind bars for killing her husband who was also a cop as well. Victor is still at large as he gets a crew to steal an ancient art piece called the Colossus of Nairobi, but he also finds out that Zoe is around, so he also plans on kidnapping her as leverage against her mom.
The animation style in A Cat in Paris is certainly unique. The visuals are very colorful and tactile almost like a living modern painting or a storybook in motion. The scenery certainly invokes Paris, but it’s more angular and a bit abstract without becoming too pretentious or trying too hard to be artistic. The lighting and hues certainly invoke a film noir aesthetic without becoming too dark or morbid especially since this film is suitable for younger audiences. The character designs are on the more simplistic end, but I wasn’t too bothered by it since the characters make good facial expressions and the fluidity of their movements is still intact. I thought the visuals worked quite well for this animated film. Some of the characters were intriguing in this film. Jeanne is someone who’s very determined, but she has her own flaws. She is able to be a competent policewoman who’s adept at shooting and some martial arts (she even practices tai chi in her spare time), but she has her internalized issues as Victor Costa haunts her when she’s alone in her own world. Nico is a sly cat burglar, but he has a heart of gold as he does his best to save Zoe even though they didn’t meet until halfway in the film. I was actually shocked that Nico wasn’t some long lost father pretending to be dead which is what the film looked like it was setting up to, but I’m glad they didn’t go there as it would’ve been way too predictable. I did think one of the henchman Mr. Frog was funny as he was the most reluctant villain. When his boss Victor wants him to swim, he claims he can’t and was telling the truth. What an ironic code name, to say the least.
A Cat in Paris has great animation and some likable characters, but I did find fault with numerous elements of the film. I thought some parts were way too predictable with a certain female character who’s in Jeanne and Zoe’s life working with Victor. It was too obvious since I could tell that all the character did was let her hair down whenever she was with the villains. I also found Zoe’s character to be flawed. I can believe that trauma can render people mute, but she didn’t have that much personality with the exception of collecting dead lizards and insects which I found to be quite disturbing. I certainly hope it wasn’t a coping mechanism for her father dying. Victor Costa suffers from what I like to call “obvious villain is obvious syndrome”. He’s constantly smugly grinning or scowling as if they were his only two facial expressions. Victor is so cliche with him being a villain who’s semi-cowardly, having stupid subordinates, and saying how he’s a bad guy. Sure, I thought it was funny how he gives his henchmen code names like they’re the cast from The Taking of the Pelham 1-2-3 or Reservoir Dogs or him making a comment that bad guys in movies never check the last place to find someone to kidnap, but I never saw him as much of a threat to most of the protagonists. There were numerous plot holes and shallow reasons for why the characters do what they do. Why does Nico steal? What other connection does the Colossus have to Victor besides him having that artifact as a kid? So many questions were unanswered.
I also thought there were some elements of copying other movies. The soundtrack sounds like a ripoff of something Hans Zimmer would compose especially the recurring string motif which sound straight out of The Dark Knight’s soundtrack. I’m not a fan of that composer (fight me), but that’s not cool copying him. The final battle at Notre Dame made me facepalm because it involved fighting and falling while grabbing onto gargoyle statues. Really? We’re going to ripoff the climax of the Disney version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame? Spoiler alert: A death scene involves a delusion leading to a fatal fall. How cliche and outdated especially by 2010’s standards.
This French animated film looks very good, but not all of the substance was there. A Cat in Paris was a safe watch for a little over an hour and at least it wasn’t offensive. The animation quality is unique and well-done with it’s hand-drawn/painted environments. I’m glad Nico and Jeanne were relatable characters. For a movie involving a cat, Dino wasn’t as much of a presence as one would think with the cover and the title though. There were some painfully cliche and predictable moments throughout the film that ruined my enjoyment. The un-original elements also hurt my enjoyment even more. A Cat in Paris isn’t a horrible movie, but I found it to be way too average.
Adjustable Point System:
Add 1-2 points if you like kitties in films.
Add 1 point if you like adventure elements in your animated films.
Subtract 2-3 points if you don’t like predictable movies.
-Creative hand-drawn animation
-Some likable lead characters
-Some funny moments sprinkled throughout
-Way too predictable and lacking in innovation
-Gaping plot holes
Final Score: 5/10 points
Content Warning: A Cat in Paris is a safe film for families to watch, but there are a few reservations. There’s a kidnapping plot which is prevalent in the 2nd half of the film. Victor does kill Zoe’s dad, but it is only mentioned. There’s a big fight scene that does get dangerous given that it takes place at high altitudes and one character dies from a fall. I do have to warn viewers that the Colossus of Nairobi statuette does contain a phallus which would be the worst thing about this film from a content perspective.
All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. A Cat in Paris is property of Folimage, GKIDS, and New Video. The DVD cover is from iTunes and is property of GKIDS and New Video.