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Director: Bibo Bergeron
Release date:
October 12, 2011
Rating:
 
★★★½
Review:

‘Un monstre à Paris’ is a charming and friendly French computer animation film by Bibo Bergeron who not only directed the film, but also wrote both the story and the screenplay.

The film is set in Paris in the winter of 1910 when the river Seine caused an enormous flood in the French capital. During this winter small and timid projectionist Émile and brassy, irresponsible delivery driver and inventor Raoul create a monster by accident. But cabaret singer Lucille discovers that this monster has surprising talents. Meanwhile, arrogant, and ambitious police commissioner Victor Maynott has his own plans with both Lucille, the monster, and the Great Flood. There’s also a proboscis monkey called Charles, who talks with reference cards, an idea that also occurs in Aardman’s ‘The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!’ from a year later.

‘Un monstre à Paris’ knows quite a number of characters and has arguably three main protagonists. But Bergeron plays out his story surprisingly well, giving ample time and background stories to all three of them, even if the one of Raoul and Lucille only arrives during the end titles. The film is very talkative, but not too much so, and has its focus and heart firm in place. The action and drama are further ornamented with several little gags, which never ask too much attention. The best gag may be when Maynott’s balloon starts to lose helium.

In fact, Bergeron envisioned the city of Paris as the film’s main character, and indeed, the movie uses wonderful images of the great city, not only in computer animation, but also by classic matte paintings. Bergeron’s Paris, realized by Sébastian Piquet, is crooked, asymmetrical, and rather ramshackle character, which is always pleasant to look at. In addition, in several scenes the metropolis is clouded in mist, which give the backgrounds and settings an extra poetical atmosphere. Moreover, Bergeron’s Paris is a very, very familiar Paris, also to people who’ve never been there: the film takes mostly place in Montmartre, with the finale taking place on the Eiffel tower, both locations well-known to almost everyone.

Christophe Lourdelet’s character designs are a bit of a mixed bag: the male characters are all firmly rooted in the Franco-Belgian comic tradition, especially Raoul and inspector Pâté. The women Lucille and Maud (Émile’s love interest) on the other hand, have more generic 3D computer animation designs, with all too large eyes and all too slender bodies. The monster is well-designed, being both large and overpowering and delicate and friendly. He looks best when given an Aristide Bruant-like hat and shawl. In that respect the later zoot suit is way off for a film set in 1910.

The animation, directed by Fabrice Joubert, is fair, but not outstanding, and although the film makers are very proud of the dance scenes, the dance moves herein come over as stiff and unnatural. Worse are Lucille’s performances of the song ‘La Seine’. It seems the film makers didn’t know what to do with her long slender arms, which are all over the place. Compare the animation of Lucille with Preston Blair’s animation of Red in e.g., ‘Red Hot Riding Hood’ (1943) and the difference between an approximation of natural movement and natural song and dance animation becomes clear. The effect animation, on the other hand is fine: the water, the clouds and the mist all look very fine.

The songs are quite out of tune with the otherwise faithful 1910 setting, being all too modern and typical products of 2011, not 1910. Composer M (Matthieu Chedid) also provides the monster’s voice, singing in a very high voice, apparently to accentuate the creature’s innocent, childish and fragile nature. Lucille is lovely voiced by Belgian singer Vanessa Paradis of Eurovision Song Contest fame, and her rendering of ‘La Seine’ is very pleasant, even if the song doesn’t sound like a French cabaret song of the 1910s, at all.

In all, ‘Un monstre à Paris’ is not perfect, but certainly well-told and entertaining. The film may be more conventional than contemporary French films like ‘Une vie de chat’ (2010), ‘Le tableau’ (2011) or ‘Ernest & Célestine’ (2012), it still shows the extraordinary rich breeding ground of animation that France has been in the 21st century thus far.

Watch the trailer for ‘A Monster in Paris’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘A Monster in Paris’ is available on Blu-Ray and DVD

Directors: Fabrice Joubert & Brian Lynch
Release Date: December 8, 2015
Rating: ★★½
Review:

‘Binky Nelson Unpacified’ is the third of three shorts accompanying the Minions feature on its DVD release. Unlike the other two, this short doesn’t star any Minion at all, but focuses instead on the criminal Nelson family the Minions encounter in their feature film.

The short starts with the Nelson just having robbed a museum and returning home. Unfortunately, they’ve left baby Binky’s pacifier at the museum, and the parents tell Binky he has to live with it. But that night, Binky returns to the museum to look for the pacifier, after all.

The best scenes of this comedy short stem from baby Binky’s Mission Impossible-like heist, all done with baby stuff, like diapers, talk powder, and a mobile. Unfortunately, ‘Binky Nelson Unpacified’ is also the most talkative of the three, and Binky’s co-star is a remarkably unfunny night guard with a cowboy hat. Binky quickly gets rid of this night guard, and the film could very well without him.

Watch ‘Binky Nelson Unpacified’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Binky Nelson Unpacified’ is available on the Blu-Ray and DVD of ‘Minions’

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