With Pixar stuttering for the first time in their illustrious career – indeed, Cars 2 being overlooked for an Oscar was about the only decision the Academy got right – other animation studios must be rubbing their hands in glee. It’s not that some of them aren’t doing great work in their own right. It’s just that Pixar have always been at least one step ahead for the last decade.
Of course, one duff note (although, let’s be honest, Cars 2 still took billions worldwide) doesn’t mean the end of Pixar. But it must at least give other studios hope. There are clearly great animators out there, as A Monster In Paris demonstrates from its first peachy frame to its last. It’s a beautiful piece of animation. Its sense of period – 1910 – is wonderful. The characters – while a littleBurton-esque – have great charm. The music – by Matthieu Chedid – is superb. The problem is, sadly, in the story (a dumbed down Phantom of the Opera, basically) and the script. Jokes don’t so much fall flat as sink in the Seine making the film seem much longer than its short running time. It may, of course, have lost something in translation from the original French but, judging by the dull slapstick, one imagines it was probably just as bad in that tongue.
The monster in question is Francoeur (voiced in this translated version by Lennon), a flea who, thanks to a laboratory accident created by inventor Raoul (Goldberg) and his wannabe filmmaker friend Emile (Harrington), is now some eight feet tall and “terrorising” Paris. In actual fact – wouldn’t you know it – Francoeur is a gentle, musical soul and just misunderstood until a young singer, Lucille (Paradis), takes him in, disguises him as, er, an eight-foot guitarist and together become the toast of the Paris cabaret scene. The only catch is Lucille’s would-be suitor, Commissioner Maynott (Huston), who wants to destroy the monster to improve his election chances. And it all rolls along in formulaic fashion and in ever decreasing circles.
If there was ever a film to prove those old comments about silk purses and sow’s ears (or, indeed, turds and polishing), this is it. You can dress it up all you like, but if it only makes you titter once (a crooning monkey, always comedy gold) and leave you looking at your watch after 20 minutes, then all that clever artwork is for naught. This is the point some film reviewers would tell you to wait for the DVD. Not this reviewer. I’d recommend getting the CD and shunning the film completely.