"A vibrant visual experience and telling a traditionally endearing story, I'm sure children will enjoy it..."
One of the more surprising inclusions in the Oscar nominations announced this week, is the animation A Cat in Paris - up for Best Animated Feature - yet that isn't the only recently released animation set in the French capital, thanks to A Monster in Paris, although Bibo Bergeron's 3D production is, however, shy of any Oscar recognition.
Set in 1910, we follow Emile (Jay Harrington), a timid film projectionist, embarking on mission with his self-professed radical and friend Raoul (Adam Goldberg). Having broken into a laboratory and accidentally knocking chemicals off a shelf, a magical concoction is formed when a growth chemical mixes with one that allows animals to sing. What is a spawned, is a seven foot fly which got caught in the mixture - dubbed as the Monster of Paris.
The public are terrified by the harmless flea, and Emile and Raoul attempt to capture it for themselves to ensure it's safety. Yet the monster, affectionately known as Francoeur - is kept in hiding by the talented and beautiful singer Lucille (Vanessa Paradis), the pair almost becoming a double-act, performing musical numbers together - with Sean Lennon providing the voice of the inflated flea. Yet the showbiz life can't last forever, as the police chief Préfet Maynott (Danny Huston) is determined to catch and kill Francoeur and earn the respect of the terrified city, although damaging his chances with Lucille in the process.
A Monster in Paris is yet another feature in a growing number of recent productions looking to the past and clearly nodding to cinematic greats and influences on modern cinema. Set in the early 20th century and focusing on a movie projectionist in Emile - names such as Georges Méliés are mentioned - not the first children's film to do so recently either of course, as Martin Scorses's Hugo focuses heavily on the inspirational film-maker. Children are being given a good lesson in old cinema at the moment that's for sure.
However despite such influences, the film certainly falls short within it's quite thin story. Loosely based on the story of Beauty and the Beast, it does all become too predictable, yet in fairness it is a children's film so that is somewhat expected. Yet A Monster in Paris fails to truly find an appeal to an older audience, which only seeks to present the differences in Pixar's features, and pretty much every other animation studio's releases.
The film may be charming and tells a somewhat magical tale - but ultimately is lacking in wittiness and poignancy. Pixar, boasting films such as Up and Wall-E - both rich in sentiment and comedy - manage to appeal equally to adults and children alike and tell moving stories, all factors of which A Monster in Paris is lacking in.
On a more positive note, however, the film certainly looks good, presenting a magical story in equally as magical surroundings. If you are to portray a city in a charming and magical way, then Paris is the perfect place, especially since using famous landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower - simply adding to the romanticism of the feature. However, A Monster in Paris is yet another film using 3D without any rhyme or reason, not really adding anything to the feature which would have worked equally as well had it been in the 'traditional' 2D.
Ultimately A Monster in Paris is for children, and thanks to being a vibrant visual experience and telling a traditionally endearing story, I'm sure children will enjoy it. Although having originally been released as a French production, that could perhaps excuse the film for bearing a somewhat meaningless and clichéd script, but let's be kind and just put that down to translation issues.