Un Monstre à Paris [A Monster in Paris] (2011)

(On Cable TV, November 2013) With advances in rendering technology and more widely-shared expertise, the universe of computer-animated feature films is getting bigger and more diverse, leading to the existence of charming oddball entities such as A Monster in Paris.  Set in flooded 1910 Paris, this is a story about a flea being transformed into a seven-foot-tall signing sensation, but it’s remarkable in that it’s more heartfelt than comic, and definitely recognizable as a French film.  The script is strange in ways that may feel unpolished to Hollywood-fed audiences: its concept of a “protagonist” is a bit fuzzy (The first five minutes are arguably devoted to a sidekick), the humor is all over the place, the villain is too broad to be taken seriously and the concept of a flea becoming a soulful singer can’t work without a bit of arbitrary super-science and audience suspension of disbelief.  The animation is noticeable less polished than the current state-of-the-art, but the film’s charm more than compensates for simpler visuals.  Writer/director Bibo Bergeron definitely gets to show an original vision on-screen, and the character design is frequently lovely, to say nothing of the songs put together by Mathieu “-M-“ Chedid.  (Vanessa Paradis’s “La Seine” is instantly catchy: Hear it now) A Monster in Paris becomes more conventional as it goes on, but its charm gets stronger at the same time, leading to a fuzzy pleased impression in time for the end credits.  It’s a pretty good family film as well, as if you needed any further reason to give it a try.

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