“Monster in Paris” is adorably funny

Released for English-speaking audiences in 2012 by EuropaCorp, “A Monster in Paris” is a 90-minute animated film that blends adventure, humor, and genuine compassion for a truly charming viewing experience. It was written and directed by Bibo Bergeron, who is known primarily for his directing and screenwriting work on other animated films such as “The Road to El Dorado,” “Shark Tale,” and “Flushed Away.”

The story follows four main characters — Emile (Jay Harrington), a meek yet kind film projectionist; Raoul (Adam Goldberg), a confidant delivery man and wayward inventor; Lucille (Vanessa Paradis), a talented cabaret performer; and Francoeur (Sean Lennon), a flea who has been accidentally dosed with a brew that has made him both unusually large and spectacularly gifted.

The exaggerated character design is artistically reminiscent of the style seen in works such as “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” or “Despicable Me.” In contrast to those boldly colorful films, however, the design and animation team utilized bright colors sparingly and effectively against a subtler color palette, which adds a dimension of realism to the Parisian backdrop. Additionally, the dynamic textures and shading give an extra depth to the already-3D animation, bringing eye-catching focus to the motion of the characters.

The plot can be predictable at times, particularly to those well-versed in the world of film, but the movie’s heart lies in its quirky characters and clever dialogue. Although the catalyst for the plot is a foolish accident on the part of the protagonists, the character development throughout the story is handled well and deftly avoids sinking to the level of exasperating stupidity. While the antagonistic characters are archetypical enough to verge into the realm of parody — which may indeed have been the goal — their motivations are clear and the conflict is well-executed.

Voice acting is an often-overlooked art, due to the lack of facial recognition, but the cast can still make or break an animated film. In this case, the attitude of the actors is the bicycle that keeps the airship of the movie’s ambient tone afloat. Much like using a bicycle to power an airship — it doesn’t necessarily make sense but — in the context of this film, it just works. The chemistry between Goldberg’s flippant snark and Paradis’ haughty sass is particularly entertaining, bringing the mood up in some of the most dire scenarios.

Few moments in the film could be considered boring, as the tightly-written script fills the slower scenes with entertaining banter and commentary from the characters. From these slower scenes, the plot proceeds at an engaging pace until it climaxes in an amusingly unorthodox chase scene through the streets (and sidewalks and stairs and river) of Paris.

But it’s not just a fun romp — empathetic viewers may very well find themselves getting more emotionally invested in the fate of a flea than they would have previously thought possible. A few genuinely touching scenes could leave you slightly watery-eyed, if you’re prone to that sort of thing.

If thinking philosophically is a favorite pastime, don’t let the film’s lighthearted tone hold you back. Lying just beneath the surface are themes of acceptance, bravery, and a willingness to stand up for what you believe to be right. Although the primary antagonist is not the most three-dimensional character in the film, he does exemplify how greed can distort well-meaning ideals into terribly callous actions, and the protagonists’ attempts to thwart him are compelling and admirable.

For those who don’t like musicals, there’s no need to worry because it isn’t one. However, if you do like musicals, you’re in luck. The score’s main attractions are the cabaret performances by Lucille and Francoeur, utilizing the vocal talent of Paradis and Lennon. Most of the songs, though not necessarily musical gold, are both catchy and fun. Whether this is a good thing or not may be determined by how many days you later spend humming them.

On the whole, “A Monster in Paris” is amusing, irreverent, and at times downright adorable. It is currently available on DVD and Netflix, so if you feel like suspending your disbelief for a little while and simply enjoying an eccentric and heartfelt escapade through early-1900s Paris, then this film might be just the thing to make you smile.