A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Triplets of Belleville is a 2003 Oscar-nominated French animated comedy. While French is spoken in the movie, there is hardly any dialogue -- like a silent movie, the action is conveyed visually and through song. During a flashback to a vaudeville show from the 1930s, an African woman dances with her bare breasts exposed. A bicyclist, after passing out onto the floor from exhaustion, is shot and killed by a mobster. Mobsters are killed by a tossed bomb onto the balcony where they sit. Other mobsters are killed by moving trains, and by falling into a ship's smokestack. In the hallway of a seedy apartment, prostitutes stand around their pimp. In this same hallway is a bathroom with an unflushed toilet containing fecal matter. Cigarette and cigar smoking. Wine drinking. For those sensitive to cruelty to animals in any form, a woman catches frogs by tossing a bomb into a pond; when the bomb explodes, dead frogs plop onto rocks, and some frogs limp off injured, and even after they are cooked for soup, one frog is shown still clinging to life in the soup bowl. Also, mobsters pull guns on a dog. A large woman walks into a theater with her small husband wedged in between her buttocks. During a bicycle race, a little boy has his hand on the bikini bottom of the woman next to him.
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What's the story?
The astonishing, outlandish, and singular originality of THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE defeats any attempt to describe or explain it. But it also makes it a lot of fun to watch. It begins with a black-and-white segment with the title characters scat-singing in a swanky 1930s nightclub. It turns out that this is being watched on television in the 1960s by a young boy with his grandmother and their dog. Then we see the boy years later, grown up and a Tour de France competitor with formidably muscular legs. He is kidnapped and his club-footed grandmother and aging dog, aided by the now-elderly triplets, go to the rescue.
Is it any good?
Each scene in this film is cheerily stuffed with arresting graphic effects, vertiginous angles, witty visual puns, and imaginative flights of fancy. The semblance of a plot is barely relevant to The Triplets of Belleville; if it's about anything, it's about vision and imagination.
Everything looks both familiar and strange at the same time, with quirky combinations of old and new Paris and New York, all deliriously and deliciously loony. The triplets throw explosives into the water to catch the frogs they eat for dinner. The bad guys look like a big black wall. And Bruno the dog has a dream that is only slightly more surreal than everything else. It's all very odd for sure, and not for all kids given the violence, sexual content, and offbeat style. Older kids who like quirky movies will enjoy.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the assortment of sources and inspirations for The Triplets of Belleville and compare it to other styles of animated films, including the Disney classics and Japanese anime.
How does this movie reveal action and character with hardly any dialogue?
How was violence shown in this movie? Did it seem germane to what was happening with the story, or put in to make the movie seem more exciting?
- In theaters: November 26, 2003
- On DVD or streaming: May 4, 2004
- Cast: Beatrice Bonifassi, Jean-Paul Donda, Michele Caucheteux
- Director: Sylvain Chomet
- Studio: Sony Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Music and Sing-Along
- Run time: 80 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: images involving sensuality, violence and crude humor
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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