Filmmakers everywhere appear to be feeling nostalgic for the heyday of cinema. Last year alone we were treated to three big cinematic treats revelling in the sumptuousness of the early 20th century: Midnight in Paris, The Extraordinary Adventures Of Adele Blanc-Sec and Hugo. This year, from French animator and director Bibo Bergeron, comes A Monster In Paris: a pleasingly concocted ode to Paris and early cinema – the work of George Mèliés in particular.
An introverted cinema projectionist, Emile (Jay Harrington), and his pronounced inventer friend, Raoul (Adam Goldberg), find themselves responsible for a monster, named Francoeur (Sean Lennon), terrorising the citizens of Paris after an experiment turns foul. Joining forces with local cabaret star Lucille (Catherine O’Hara), they embark on a madcap hunt to save the monster, who turns out to be a harmless flea, from the clutches of the city’s ruthless police force.
It’s not exactly the most unique of stories, in fact most of what’s on show her seems stupidly in sync with the previously mentioned The Extraordinary Adventures Of Adele Blanc-Sec. It’s clear in the narrative execution that co-writers Bergeron and Stephane Kazandijan aren’t entirely comfortable with the field, with most of their efforts at imparting some originality through the wacky characters and European humour failing to establish much of an impact.
Where the film works, though, and elevates itself above similar entries, is through the dreamy, elegant animation and delectable music, mostly performed by central star Lennon. Although most would say the animation is nowhere near as accomplished as they’re used to seeing, the animators use this as a positive. Basking in the nostalgia the emanates through the rich textures, superb panoramas of a Paris submerged in water (it’s set during the cities Great Flood of 1910), it’s a tactic that works due to its relaxed approach.
The various set pieces that desperately try to inject some much-needed va-va-voom into the narrative may threaten to ruin the laid-back aura, but A Monster In Paris shouldn’t be too heavily criticised. It’s an alluringly simple tale that’s aimed squarely at the younger market, which ensures it doesn’t overcomplicate itself and aim to attain refinement. A nice slice of fantasy sentiment.