HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: A Monster in Paris
HTS Overall Score:84.5
Shout Factory (and subsequently its sister studio Scream Factory), are two of my favorite studios for the sheer amount of titles they license that just don’t get the attention they deserve from the big studios. “A Monster in Paris” is one of those titles. A French animated film made very recently, it fell through the licensing cracks until it was rescued by Shout Factory.
Harkening back to an old French idiom and play named “A flea in her ear”, Bibo Bergeron decided to take a bit more a literal approach to the idiom and run with it, thus creating a story about a LITERAL flea in her ear. Raoul (Gad Almaleh) and Emile (Sebastian Desjours) are two friends of a most opposite nature. Raoul is a slightly full of himself ladies’ man and Emile is a timid theater owner barely able to stand up for himself. On a road trip to the local market to pick up some items for Emile and a delivery for Raoul turns the city on its ear (literally). Raoul is making a delivery of peat moss to a local botanist who’s a bit more of a mad scientist than your average botanist. Against Emile’s better judgment Raoul shows him around the wild lair of the scientist and in the process they activate a growing formula that just so happens to wreak havoc upon the doctor’s lab and create a giant flea in the process.
Roaming about Paris, the flea appears to be causing havoc everywhere, until he meets Lucille (Vanessa Paradis), a burgeoning young singer at a cabaret club in downtown Paris. Lucille is able to see past the monstrous appearance and cut right to the flea’s (now dubbed Francoeur) sweet, childlike innocence. The amazing part about this flea was that not only is he a unique animal size wise, he is also has the ability to understand melodies and imitate singing with a lovely falsetto. Hiding him with some costumes, Lucille and Francoeur light up the cabaret with some absolutely fantastic music. As all plots must go, there is a villain in this situation. The Commissioner of Paris, a pompous and arrogant buffoon named Maynott (Francois Cluzet) is out to use this “monster” to his advantage. Vowing to destroy this “threat” to Paris, he sets out on a mission to rid the people of Francoeur and in the process shoot himself up the political ladder. Now it’s up to Lucille, and Francoeur’s creators, Emile and Raoul to get him out of harm’s way and foil the machinations of the devious Commissioner Maynott in the process.
“A Monster in Paris” seems to be a mix of “Beauty and the Beast” and some French fairy tales in its portrayal of someone who has the exterior to frighten someone, but the inner soul of someone completely different. While the story is unique and the animation stunning, the voice acting is a little bit subpar. In animated films, one of the largest boons or downfalls of the film lies with the people behind the animated characters. In this case Vanessa Paradis is the front runner and voiced with exquisite accuracy, many of the supporting characters just don’t seem to fit the roles. While they are not exactly direct to video voice actors some of the choices seem rather out of place and grate against the lovely tones of Vanessa Paradis (especially Commissioner Maynott). The final point of contention is what is most likely “lost in translation”. The film never was as funny as it could have been due to what appears to be a classic scenario where linguistical humor has been dampened in the translation process. However, the humor that is evident is still poignant and touching.
All that aside, the story itself was very cute and endearing with a sort of heart that can be missing from many of today’s giant feature animated films. Bergeron did an excellent job blending adult humor and childlike joy in a way that both could appreciate while not bogging it down with a lot complex storylines. In a sense the simplicity of the story is what makes it truly enjoyable. Allowing ourselves to get lost in the beautiful visuals and the simple tale of love and what truly makes someone “human”. Funny, cute, sweet, rough, spastic at times, “A monster in Paris” weaves a tale of love, compassion and humanity in a short 90 minutes without overstaying its welcome or feeling like a snippet of a full length film.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=11559[/img]Wow, all I can say is WOOOOOOOOOOOOW! “A Monster in Paris” is absolutely one of THE most stunning animated films I’ve ever seen. Rivalling event the big boys, it literally BURSTS onto the scene with a rich display of lush and vibrant colors. Reds, blues, greens, oranges and white’s literally dominate the film. What makes this such a breath of fresh air is the different hues of colors being shown. We Americans are so used to the same shades and hues of colors being shown and recycled in different variations in all our animated films. Here we get to see shades that just aren’t often seen in American cinema. A pale white and ocean blue create the streets and buildings of Paris while rich Eggplant purples and saint patty’s day oranges adorn the bodies of the citizens. The greens are some of the most rich and varied I’ve ever seen with at least 15 different shades of green by my record before I lost count. Lines are silky smooth and nary a trace of jaggies or banding to be seen. No compression artifacts or macroblocking in sight and the detail is sublime. Whether it be the cobblestone streets or the intricate lace and jewel work done on Lucille’s stunning show dress, it’s all right there with astounding clarity. Easily one of my favorite encodes of the year.
The 3D effect was rather lackluster here. Unfortunately the hazy and light hues favored by the animators doesn't lend itself to the best "pop" and depth in a 3D film. There is some added depth, but it is barely noticeable on most of the long shots, where 3D usually shines. The main instances of 3D depth was in the design and animation of Francoeur and his insect body. While it adds SOME depth and sense of 3D effect, it's not a film that's going to showcase your shiny new 3D television as have others in the animated department.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=11558[/img]The audio for the movie is almost as perfect. Excellent vocal separation and use of the front sound stage. The Effects and vocals were extremely well balanced with nary a fault that I could hear. The surrounds were used to perfection as well. Whether it be the bustling sounds of the busy streets of Paris or the clattering of Raoul’s rickety jalopy along the cobblestones, everything was detailed well. The LFE was extremely solid for the most part, adding a throaty low end to the film that didn’t intrude or stand out from the rest. My only complaint was really that there could have been just a TAD more LFE for some of the chase scenes and explosions, rather than just appearing most heavily in the musical scores. Last but not least the music. The shining star of the film, sliding smoothly around and through the film to create an enveloping score that is truly a delight to hear.
• Theatrical Trailer
While not going to win any awards for best animated flick, “A Monster in Paris” is still a unique look into the world of French animation and a delight for people of all ages. A sweet movie that is overshadowed only by the fact that in the last several years we have been inundated with a score of fantastic films by Pixar and Disney that the bar is almost unreachable for anyone else. Films that once would have been applauded are now seen as “second best” in terms of capturing that same magic that we felt as children. The best way to describe this film is that it is most like the simple animated films that we grew up with in our youth, rather than the spectacles that today’s animated films are (in both good and bad connotations). Combined with great audio/video scores I highly recommend that you at least give this one a solid rental for all animated film lovers out there.
Starring: Mathieu Chedid, Vanessa Paradis, Gad Elmaleh
Directed by: Bibo Bergeron
Written by: Bibo Bergeron, Stéphane Kazandjian
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: ENGLISH: DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DD 2.0
Studio: Shout Factory
Rated: Not Rated
Runtime: 90 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: April 16th, 2013
Buy A Monster in Paris Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Rent It
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