Today: February 22, 2024
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A Monster In Paris

Unfolding in a flooded, mist-shrouded Belle Epoque Paris circa early 1900s, A Monster In Paris is both a classic monster movie and the affectionate hymn to early cinema that Scorsese’s Hugo should have been.

Unfolding in a flooded, mist-shrouded Belle Epoque Paris circa early 1900s, A Monster In Paris is both a classic monster movie and the affectionate hymn to early cinema that Scorsese’s Hugo should have been.

 

Shy cinema projectionist Emile (Adam Goldberg) is in the process of plucking up the courage to ask out box office girl Maud (Madeline Zima) when his zany inventor friend Raoul (Jay Harrington) drags him off on a wild truck ride through the streets of Paris
to help him make a few deliveries.

 

While making a delivery at the exotic greenhouse of a holidaying mad scientist, the impulsive Raoul can’t help but play around with the scientist’s potions, accidentally causing an explosion and unwittingly creating the movie’s titular monster; a giant 7-foot flea who promptly escapes the greenhouse after being caught on film by Emile’s new movie camera.

 

Like most classic movie monsters however, the creature is a gentle soul who wouldn’t harm a, ahem, flea. Taken in by Raoul’s unrequited love interest, nightclub
chanteuse Lucille (Vanessa Paradis) who names him Francoeur, the monster proves to have a beautiful singing voice and an instinctive talent for the guitar.
Disguising him as her accompanist, Lucille and Francoeur are soon the toast of Paris.

 

But with the entire city in a panic, terrified of the
monster stalking their streets, the vain, bullying, corrupt police chief,
Commisioner Maynott (Danny Huston)
decides that killing the creature will give him the political clout he needs to
become Mayor. Aided by the mad
scientist’s monkey assistant, can Emile, Raoul and Lucille save Francouer from
certain death?

 

Following years of lackluster, production-line animation
in such soulless big-budget US vehicles as Dreamworks A Shark’s Tale and The Road
To Eldorado
, Bergeron here delivers a quirky, idiosyncratic work that will
enchant children and adults alike.
Uniquely French, the characters are all comically exaggerated, sporting
sharp features and spindly limbs, while Francouer is not your typically
Disney-esque monster, all cuddly and soulful, but a refreshingly alien and
bug-like, with an almost childlike wonder and curiosity. The 3D is immersive with few poke poke
moments and the Parisian backdrops, (Montmartre, the Sacre-Couer, the Eiffel Tower)
are beautifully rendered with a misty, melancholy, painterly quality.

 

The performances are fun with Danny Huston hamming it up
outrageously as the arrogant blowhard Maynott while Paradis’ Lucille makes a
wonderfully spikey heroine and the songs are catchy, hummable, if not
memorable, fare. The plot, such as
it is, could be written on the back of a postage stamp and is liberally
smattered with references to The
Hunchback Of Notre Dame
and The
Phantom Of The Opera
as well as early French silent cinema and while there
are maybe a few too many wacky characters running around, A Monster In Paris thankfully lacks the knowing irony and
tongue-in-cheekiness that blights much Hollywood kiddie fare. It’s a film that’s not afraid to openly
engage your emotions and features a bravura moment of aching sadness as
Francouer, alone and friendless, shelters from the rain in a dark alley,
singing the film’s title track while the audience witnesses his transformation
through his eyes. It’s a stunning,
soulful interlude which you just wouldn’t normally get in most kids films.

 

Fast, funny and ambitious, suffused with a melancholic nostalgia for the early, handmade years of cinema, A Monster In Paris is a charming, Gallic delight.

 

David Watson

David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email: david.watson@filmjuice.com

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