Les Triplettes de Belleville

Orphaned Champion lives with his grandmother, Madame Souza, a resourceful old woman who tries to engage the odd little fellow's interest. A gift of a dog, Bruno, is a success, but the boy's enthusiasm is really engaged when Madame graces him with a shiny new tricycle. Years later, the adult Champion is coached by his grandmother for the grueling Tour de France, but he's kidnapped by the French Mafia midway through the race. Madame and Bruno follow Champion across the ocean and are aided in the foreign land by the 1930's singing trio, "Les Triplettes de Belleviille."

Laura's Review: A

This truly inventive piece of French animation is delightfully weird and wonderful, a treat for both the eye and the mind. It deserves to be a huge hit or, at the very least, a big cult success. This surreal story champions inventiveness, familial love, determination and love of the arts while poking fun at the differences between Gallic and American cuisines. "Les Triplettes de Belleviille" shows influences as diverse as "Mr. Magoo," the films of Caro and Jeunet ("Delicatessen," "City of Lost Children"), "The Family Dog," the animated "101 Dalmatians and Warner Brothers' early Merrie Melodies cartoons yet remains a completely unique creation. The almost dialogue-free film (sound is exceptional) begins with the young Champion, who looks like one of Edward Gorey's "Gashlycrumb Tinies" by way of "The Addams Family," and Madame in black and white watching a televised special featuring Les Triplettes singing with guest appearances by Django Reinhardt, Josephine Baker and Fred Astaire (who is eaten by his own shoes!). Color blooms with the arrival of Bruno, a pup who becomes obsessed with the train that rattles by their upstairs window after his tail is run over by Champion's electric one. (The sequences where Bruno barks at the passengers passing by feature the use of slo motion and perspective shifts. Bruno's b&w dreams feature him on the train while the passengers bark at him from Champion's bedroom.) Years pass as evidenced by passing seasons and Madame's home and its landscape showing the effects of a World War. The adult Champion has a long, beak of a nose and bulging biceps and his life is dedicated to bicycle training. He strains up hills with grandmother blowing a whistle rhythmically from behind. She balances his wheels while he eats a regimented diet before a massage and bed. All this work comes to naught when Champion is kidnapped with two other cyclists who are all taken on a huge ship across the Atlantic to Belleviille, a fantastical version of NYC from the pages of "Babe 2: A Pig in the City" where the chubby Statue of Liberty brandishes a hamburger. Fortunately Madame and Bruno rent a paddle boat and follow, but they lose Bruno in the city. Camped near the sea, Madame uses junk at hand to create music, plucking out the percussive Triplettes hit from years earlier. The sisters, who happen to live nearby, are drawn by the music and bring the unfortunates home where they subsist on the frogs one sister 'fishes' via hand grenade. When Madame discovers that Bruno is being held by a shady French wine importer for nefarious purposes, the odd band assemble a most hilarious rescue mission. Director Sylvain Chomet has concocted a classic full of whimsy and heart. The animation (which uses some 3D effects) is sumptuous with a palette of mostly golds, blues and greens giving it a slightly melancholy feel. Music is terrific, taking queues from various movie genres. This one trumps "Finding Nemo" just as Michael Eisner has declared 2D animation dead and is a strong recommendation for the 2003 Boston Film Festival (9/5-14) for any animation lovers out there.

Robin's Review: C

In 1973, Alan Oakley (Larry Sullivan) was a straight-as-an-arrow 24-year old dyed-in-the-wool Republican who strived to make his military father proud. That is, until he meets Tommy Ballinger (Steve Braun), a 19-year old transplant from Texas who came to San Francisco to form the gay civil rights group, Out Loud. A chance meeting brings these two opposites together and everyone, except Alan, can see that they are made for each other. He sticks to the straight and narrow, so to speak, until he finally finds his heart in "The Trip." Freshman writer/director Miles Swain tries to make a period piece steeped in the 70's and 80's that attempts to do too many things. The film provides strong social commentary of the acceptance of gay lifestyles and the battles that people like Tommy and others fought to secure those rights. It is also a love story with the unsure, stumbling Alan trying to be something he is not because of the pressures his father has placed him under since he was a boy. Alan can't accept the spark of attraction that ignited between he and Tommy but the romance builds, anyway, and their lives are irrevocably altered as the gay community races unknowingly towards the coming AIDS epidemic. Swain also throws in what I sincerely hope is homage to, and not rip-off of, "Midnight Cowboy," depicted during the trip in "The Trip." This is far too light weight a production to try to pull of such heady fare as the history of gay life in America, circa 1973 to 1984, an allegory about AIDS and a soap opera romance, too. As such, the attention of the film and story shift from one plot line to another, sometimes with no sense of flow, especially as it moves past the romance and into the social analysis of the time. The overly ambitious story shows the first-time inexperience of Swain in both the writing and direction. There are some good elements to "The Trip," chief of which is the likable, charismatic newcomer Steve Braun as Tommy. He has a level of assurance in front of the camera that comes naturally (kind of like Val Kilmer in "Real Genius," with whom the actor has a passing resemblance), especially in his often humorous and sometime caustic remarks. He makes you laugh and understand, at once, when Alan asks him to hide from his parents by getting into the bedroom closet. Tommy says, "You'll bury me in the crawl space before I get in the closet!" The humor of the scene has an edge of defiance, too. Braun imbues in Tommy the qualities of individuality, honesty and willingness to stand up for what's right in the face of adversity, making him a fully developed character. Unfortunately, top billed Larry Sullivan, as Alan, does not have near the presence or chemistry of Braun so the relationship of the story and the acting between the principals is very lopsided. Alexis Arquette, as the swishy friend Michael, I found, initially, annoying, but the actor develops the character throughout the film until you realize you really like Michael. Ray Baker plays ill-defined "bad guy" responsible for Alan and Tommy's break up. Jill St. John has a small role as Alan's mother - there is life after Henry Kissinger, I guess - and MTV veteran Julie Brown plays a loud receptionist. You can see that there isn't a lot of "thesping," except for Braun and Arquette, going on here. Production values are low rent, too much so for the ambitious, over-laden script. There are a couple of good aspects to "The Trip," particularly Steve Braun's performance, that will appeal to its niche audience.