A Monster in Paris (Film Review)

The movie poster from Great Britain

At the 2012 Los Angeles Animation Festival, I had the opportunity to watch a little gem of a film that has not yet been released in the United States. If you asked me a week ago if a movie about a giant sized singing flea sounded appealing, I would have say no. A Monster in Paris changed that.

Set during the great Paris flood of 1910, a shy cinema projectionist named Emile and his wisecracking buddy Raoul find themselves in an adventure involving a giant flea named Francoeur who turns out to be a gifted guitarist and nightclub musician. Their adventures include Lucille, a childhood friend of Raoul who sings at the club L’Oiseau Rare (The Rare Bird). Chief of Police Maynott, who has his eye on Lucille, is keen to impress the Parisian public by ridding Paris of the over-sized tick. Originally entitled Un Monstre à Paris, the film has been redubbed in English.

French writer/director Bibo Bergeron, whose work includes Shark Tale and The Road To El Dorado, used tight pacing and action that took advantage of what animation can do. With a budget of just €28m, Bibo was able to tell a solid story. The choice of seeing the rooftops of Paris from Francoeur’s perspective creates some of the most memorable moments. One of the most suspenseful sequences comes later in the film, when Emile, Raoul, Lucille and Francoeur are chased by Maynott through the streets of Paris that concludes at the tip of the Eiffel Tower. The director’s use of perspective to amplify the feeling of danger is sure to keep kids hopping in their seats. The journey is a tour de force.

There are moments when the film feels awkward. During the first act the dialogue between Emile and Raoul is a little cumbersome at times, and the introductions of characters during the first fifteen minutes, although humorous, are a little frenetic. To be fair there’s limited time for the director to set the stage for Francoeur’s entrance. However, the film doesn’t waste time moving forward and we’re allowed to watch the relationships between characters unfold without too much exposition.

Although the film was produced in France, the storytelling has an American feel to it. The story structure and character development have more in common with Arthur Christmas than European offerings like The Illusionist and The Secret of Kells. That being said, the film is saturated with depictions of turn-of-the-century Paris in a neo-noir visual styling, and is a feast for the eyes.

One of the most notable features of the film is the original music soundtrack. Composed by Matthieu Chedid and sung by Vanessa Paradis and Sean Lennon, the songs, specifically La Seine, are wonderful. The musical numbers will stay with viewers long after the theater lights come on.

The animation is beautiful and on par with any animated film currently in theaters. The story, music and gentle humor make A Monster in Paris the perfect film for the entire family.

Screenplay by Bibo Bergeron & Stéphane Kazandjian. Voices include Vanessa Paradis, Adam Goldberg, Danny Huston, Matthew Géczy, Jay Harrington, Bob Balaban, Catherine O’Hara and Sean Lennon. Running time is 82 minutes.

You can follow David Derks on Twitter at @dderks

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One Response to “A Monster in Paris (Film Review)”

  1. […] one of our staff writers reviewed a theatrical pre-release of “A Monster in Paris” over a year ago we certainly were looking forward to this […]

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