Beautiful visuals and beautiful music, but middling story
Loves: Good animation
Likes: Foreign films, Adam Goldberg
Dislikes: Questionable plotting
Hates: Not getting original audio
Borrowing from a few different classic French stories and influences, the film starts as the story of Emile (Jay Harrington, Better Off Dead) and Raoul (Adam Goldberg), a pair of unlikely friends in Paris in the early 20th century. A meek film projectionist, Emile harbors a crush on the theater's ticket-seller Maud (Madeline Zima), while Raoul, an obnoxious inventor/courier, has a repressed interest in local singer Lucille (Vanessa Paradis), who in return cannot stand him. The pair is bumbling, led into misadventures by Raoul's unrestrained nature. One such misadventure takes them to a greenhouse where they accidentally cause a flea to grow to human size. Somehow, in the process, the flea also developed a beautiful singing voice (provided by Sean Lennon), and when not terrorizing the city as a misunderstood roof-leaping monster, taking the name Francoeur, he partners with Lucille in a fantastic nightclub act. His presence is hard to miss though, and soon Emile, Raoul, Lucille and Francoeur are conspiring to avoid egotistical Commissioner Maynott (Danny Huston) and his sidekick investigator Pate (Bob Balaban.)
On the plus side, the voice acting is solid across the board, with Goldberg playing smarmy with ease and Harrington doing well with his limited role, while Zima and Paradis lend their feminine charms as the love interests, and Huston is excellent as the blustery villain. It would have been nice if the great Catherine O'Hara was given more to do as the manager of Lucille's club, but there's not a lot of laughs across the board. On the other hand, the animation is uniformly outstanding, utilizing a stylized take on the design standards of the period in Paris, that results in each character looking distinctly different from the others (especially a sharp-nosed waiter and the beautiful Lucille.) The film's look is gorgeously cinematic, resulting in some rather impressive frames, led by the beauty of the Parisian cityscape, the intricacy of the Eiffel Tower and the impressively dreamy montages, particularly the first-person retelling of Francoeur's origin to Lennon singing "A Monster in Paris."
As much as the film is powered by the beauty of the animation, the music is so incredibly catchy and gorgeous that it simply takes over the movie whenever it's present (which is less than most would like.) Between Paradis' angelic voice (visualized without subtlety by Lucille's delicate white costume wings) and the songwriting of Matthieu Chedid (a.k.a -M-), most of the songs are evocative and memorable, while Sean Lennon's soft, complementary sound works as Francoeur's singing voice (though French-Canadian-raised Rufus Wainwright probably would have been a perfect choice for the English translation.) When Lucille first sings with the monster, the performance of the bouncy pop song "La Seine and I Caberet" is one of those musical moments that will just stick with you. Unfortunately, that's not the case with the rest of the film, but it's pretty entertaining as you watch it.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track delivers the film quite well, from the strong songs and score to the impressively distinct sound effects and a plethora of well-placed atmospherics, which take full advantage of a dynamic mix to enhance the film's sense of depth (aiding the 3-D presentation.) Dialague is clean and clear throughout, and despite the power of the music, the characters' voices are never buried (again, check out the performance of "La Seine & I" by Lucille and Francoeur and marvel at how many separate sound elements you can pick out without distortion, especially when the fireworks start.) Sadly, we don't have the opportunity to hear what the movie sounds like in its original French or hear the songs of Chedid, who wrote the score and originally sang the part of Francoeur.
Inside the package there's a DVD copy of the film and a code for digital copy.
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