A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that A Cat in Paris is a French animated drama that was nominated for an Academy Award in 2012 and was subsequently dubbed in English. With its cops vs. robbers plot and several gripping action sequences -- not to mention a story that touches on grief, loneliness, moral ambiguity, betrayal, and revenge -- it's not ideal for preschoolers used to lighter cartoon fare. The violence includes gunfire, hallucinations, a man plunging to his death, and a woman who betrays a little girl's trust and then places her in harm's way. Some children will also be disturbed by the fact that Dino (the titular cat) routinely hunts and kills lizards. With a couple of exceptions, the characters are all flawed, and since the story is set in Paris, adults smoke and drink wine and Champagne.
What's the story?
Zoe (voiced by Lauren Weintraub) hasn't spoken since her father, a police officer, was killed. Her mother, Jeanne (Marcia Gay Harden), is an overworked Paris police detective who's determined to arrest her husband's murderer, organized crime boss Costa (JB Blanc), whom she suspects is planning a major art heist. Zoe is watched by her uptight nanny, Claudine (Anjelica Huston), and her only friend is her pet cat, Dino. At night, however, Dino leaves Zoe's bedroom and prances to the side of an unorthodox jewel thief, Nico (Steve Blum). As Jeanne makes plans to catch Costa before he steals the Colossus of Nairobi (an ancient totem being delivered to Paris for an exhibit), Dino eventually leads his two "owners" to meet, and Zoe bonds with Nico. A twist brings all the players together in a dangerous chase across Paris.
Is it any good?
There's a sophisticated simplicity to Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol's elegantly crafted caper. Meticulously hand drawn, the animators depict a highly stylized, vibrant Paris (is there any other kind?) that's full of colorful rooftops, restaurants, and statues that will make any viewer want to book a flight to the City of Lights. The plot (despite the one little twist) is easy to follow, and it captures some surprisingly hefty themes for such a short (64 minutes) film: grief, loneliness, moral ambiguity, betrayal, and revenge are all touched upon with a delicacy that's accompanied by an evocative jazzy score. They obviously didn't make this movie just for kids (if they had, Dino would talk), but also for adults who love animation.
It's obvious why the Academy chose to honor A CAT IN PARIS alongside Hollywood offerings such as Rango (which won), Kung Fu Panda 2, and Puss in Boots. While Puss is a cat of loud and flashy action (and lots of sarcastic quips), Dino is simply always there, knowing when to comfort, push, and prod. Even without words, Dino speaks to the characters (especially Zoe and Nico) and the audience in an authentic and often hilarious way. If you have older kids willing to read subtitles, give the French original a chance, but even the English-dubbed version is a wonderful reminder to children that animation is more than singing and talking animals or flashy 3-D sequences.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Paris is used as another character in the film. What are the landmarks that serve as a backdrop? Kids: Would you like to research more about Parisian architecture and culture, particularly Notre Dame? Where would you start?
How is A Cat in Paris different from most American animated films? How do you think the movie would have been different had it been made in Hollywood?
Is the violence in the story realistic or cartoonish? Discuss the way the violence has consequences.
- In theaters: June 1, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: October 9, 2012
- Cast: Anjelica Huston, Marcia Gay Harden, Matthew Modine
- Directors: Alain Gagnol, Jean-Loup Felicioli
- Studio: GKIDS
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Cats, Dogs, and Mice
- Run time: 64 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: mild violence and action, and some thematic material
- Last updated: October 29, 2020
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