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.