Animation is in a sorry state when the most obvious charm of an animated film is that it is hand-drawn. However, A Cat in Paris rises above most recent animated films not just because it is hand-drawn, but the painstaking care and stylization of the film. A Cat in Paris has the warmth of a children’s book come to life. In this sense, the drawing style is utterly unique. It borders on cartoonish, with the exaggerated noses of the crooks and soft angles of its titular feline, but it is never satisfied as merely an animated film. Directors Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol bring a level of surrealism to their character’s movements. It is an unparalleled fluidity that could only be envisioned for a tale of a cat burglar and his cat companion. While the animation style is certainly praise-worthy, A Cat in Paris pays particular attention to its color palette. Most hand-drawn films have a shallow sense of color, with either muddled and muted shades or vastly exaggerated and outrageous color schemes. A Cat in Paris is content presenting its audience with the intoxicating blue-black of the Parisian night sky is only rivaled by the deep reds and soft browns that comprise the bulk of the film.
However, A Cat in Paris is more than its brilliant brush strokes. A Cat in Paris is also a story. Unfortunately, this is where the film falters. On the one hand, it is the story of a young girl, Zoe, and her cat. On the other hand, the film tells a harrowing tale of mystery and intrigue about a lonely cat burglar. Eventually the two stories come together, but the methods of storytelling seem so diametrically opposed. A Cat in Paris tries to bring some of the family-friendly whimsy to its cartoonish villains, but at the sense of any real sense of danger coming from them. In the end, the film does not seem entirely sure if it is a children’s movie or simply a movie that happens to be animated. After all, animation is not an art form that is strictly limited to a juvenile audience. The film delves into some heavy themes, such as the loss of Zoe’s father at the hands of the main villain of the film, but also panders by providing a scene where this known murderer throws a quiche into a henchman’s face. While a food fight seems tame for a cold-blooded killer, A Cat in Paris is bound by its family-friendly genre restriction. However, as the film progresses and the storyworlds become increasingly intertwined, A Cat in Paris self-corrects these elements. As Zoe finds herself in danger, the story becomes slightly more serious and less cartoonish, while remaining accessible to its younger audience. By the end of the film, the two stories come together in a very natural manner, but much like the actual story of Zoe and her cat as well as Nico and the cat.
A Cat in Paris is, in many ways, an absolute triumph. While its story falters at times, manically dancing between its more adult content and childish antics, the film exudes a charm that sweeps audiences off its feet. While the animation style is an undeniable draw, A Cat in Paris has more style than what is seen on the screen. Its characters have a fluidity, both in motion and in speech. Even the story, in its most shallow moments, has a certain something about it that makes its flaws seem insignificant. Combined with a smooth jazz soundtrack, A Cat in Paris is sleek, stylish, and above all, sincere.
A Cat in Paris will be released on Blu-ray/DVD Combo and DVD on October 9, 2012. Along with the feature film, A Cat in Paris is presented with its original French track and an English-language track featuring the voice talents of Marcia Gay Harden, Anjelica Huston, and Matthew Modine. Its special features include several trailers, a video flipbook, and another animated short.