I’ve never been much of a cat person. I have some girl friends that have cats and love them to death, but I grew up with a dog, so cats were my enemy in a way. I now have chinchillas, which like to run away from cats. I’ve always found cats to be sneaky and protective, but not always that friendly. That sort of describes the cat Dino from “A Cat in Paris” perfectly: He’s nice and gentle, but he serves two owners. One is a mute girl named Zoe, who lost her father after he was murdered by a crime lord. Her mother is a detective and has made catching her husband’s killer a top priority, maybe even to the point where she doesn’t look after her daughter the way she should.
The other owner Dino serves is a cat burglar named Nico, who steals valuables at night but longs for companionship during the day. Because Dino serves these two masters he inevitably gets them mixed up in each other’s lives when Zoe decides to follow him one night. She watches her father’s killer planning to steal some sort of valuable artifact and gets spotted. The cat leads her to Nico’s house, who despite stealing for a living proves to be a good guy who risks his life to protect her.
Of course, despite all these complications there’s at least one more: Zoe’s mother is hunting both her husband’s killer AND Nico (and no, they are not the same person)! So if Nico gets caught with Zoe and she can’t talk, then who’s to vouch for him and clue the mother in on who’s REALLY the bad guy in all this?! Despite all these story twists, the movie runs at a brisk sixty minutes and doesn’t waste a single second on useless information. It never overstays its welcome and movie is better for it. The animation may look a tad crude to the average eye, but I liked the style because it looked like something a kid would draw.
Yet the story is sophisticated enough that adults and teenagers can enjoy this too. The violence is intense, but not gory. The action is suspenseful, but not scary. The characters are simple enough for kids to understand who’s on who’s side, but there is enough complexity that none of the characters come off as stereotypes. And the cat…yes, the cat. The cat is sort of the McGuffin in all this. He exists to propel the story forward and create a foil for many of the characters, but in and of himself he is not as important as the title suggests. “A Cat Burglar in Paris” might have made for a more convincing title.
Of course, the French title translates to “A Cat’s Life,” which isn’t a whole lot better than the English title. Never mind. Right now the film has only screened in some film festivals where a majority of families will never see it. Now that it has been nominated for an Oscar, hopefully that will give it some distribution power so that families can become better acquainted with it. It’s not the best family film I’ve ever seen, but it IS a lot of fun and contains some of the best stealth action I’ve seen in an animated feature! Again though, seeing that I’m not a cat person I kept waiting for Dino to be the bad guy, and found myself a little disappointed that he wasn’t.
Note: The movie will have a nation wide release this winter with a new dubbed version. Sources at GKIDS wouldn’t specify where in Sacramento the film would premier, but I’ve got a hunch either the Tower Theater or the Crest Theater will be the first theaters to receive it.