Although 2011 was an amazing year for animation, 2012 promises to be even better with Pirates! In An Adventure with Scientists, Brave and The Lorax all on the horizon. One animation which particularly caught my eye when casually checking out trailers was the French feature Un Monstre à Paris (A Monster in Paris). I like a bit of world cinema, French films in particular; the work of Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie, Delicatessen, Micmacs) are amongst some of my all time favourites. A Monster in Paris combines my love of world cinema and animation; an accompaniment that appears just too good to be true.
A Monster in Paris is set amongst the hustle and bustle of Paris in 1910, specifically during the Seine flood in January of the same year. A group of four unsuspecting friends: Emile, a shy projectionist who has a secret crush on his colleague Maud; Raoul, his eccentric delivery-man friend and his crush Lucille; a cabaret singer, develop a new friendship with the ‘monster’ from the title. Raoul, naturally curious and attracted to trouble, ventures into a scientist’s lab whilst making a delivery. Warned to leave the packages at the door by a monkey-come-butler named Charles, Raoul, much against Emile’s advice, proceeds and seizes the opportunity to explore. During this exploration bottles of unstable fertiliser and singing potions accidentally collide and shatter, spilling the contents on a flea that previously resided in Charles’ fur. Fleeing from the scene, Francœur (the flea) jumps from roof top to roof top, eventually landing at the door of Lucille’s dressing room.
A mixture of Phantom of the Opera, The Hunchback of Notra Dame and King Kong; A Monster in Paris is a monster film with a difference. Beautifully animated, the eccentric style is distinguishable from any Disney or Dreamworks production. Unfortunately many of the scenes lacked the same sparkle showcased in many CGI features that have graced our screens recently; comparing it to a Pixar movie would be unfavourable and incredibly unfair. The film also fails to work on more than one level, leaving adults flagging a little and resulting to clock-watching. Characters are poorly constructed, the climax happens too soon, and is dragged out too long. It pains me to be so damning of a film which is trying to do something new; unfortunately A Monster in Paris is just not up to the same standard we have come to expect from family films.
More of one for the children than all for the family, the animation of A Monster in Paris is endearing and the songs are delightfully catchy. I found myself uncontrollably tapping my feet in time to the musical numbers, that played a big part in winning me over. Whilst the story isn’t spectacular or especially thrilling, it wouldn’t fair badly for post-Sunday lunch TV viewing.