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A Monster in Paris (2011)

Shout! Factory
Blu-ray Disc Released: 4/16/2013

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 4/25/2013

As with many movie critics, I'm constantly pointing out the fact (note that I didn't say complaining) that we rarely get original ideas in movies. And when we do, they are usually in obscure, arthouse films. One genre which is often sorely longing for something new is the animated family film. It seems that every year we get another Pixar or Dreamworks Animation film which is well-made and fun, but rarely ground-breaking. The problem with new ideas is that when we get them, we often don't know what to do with them. A great case in point is A Monster in Paris.

(While this is a French film, which originally featured French actors, the only audio track on the Blu-ray Disc offers the English dubbed version, so I'll be listing the American cast.)

A Monster in Paris takes place in "The City of Lights" in the 1920s. Emile (voiced by Jay Harrington) works in a movie theater and he wants to make his own movies. He also wants a date with his co-worker, Maud (voiced by Madeline Zima), but he's afraid to ask her out. Emile's best friend is Raoul (voiced by Adam Goldberg), a loud-mouthed delivery man who rides around in a dangerous customized truck. Emile accompanies Raoul on a delivery to a science lab, and Raoul can't keep his hands to himself. He mixes chemicals and soon creates a singing monkey, a giant plant, and something else -- a monster. Soon, the monster is being spotted all over town. Lucille (voiced by Vanessa Paradis), a nightclub singer and the object of Raoul's scorn and affection, has a run-in with the monster and quickly learns that it has a lovely singing voice and natural musical ability. Unfortunately, Prefet Maynott (voiced by Danny Huston) has vowed to kill the beast as part of his strategy to become mayor.

Well, I can honestly say that I've never seen that movie before. Did I mention that the monster is a giant, mutated flea? I didn't? That's because I didn't want you to accuse me of A) making the whole thing up, or B) being on drugs. Yes, A Monster in Paris is about a 7-foot tall flea who dresses in a white suit and fedora and becomes a nightclub star. The oddest thing about the movie is how straight it is played. While this is partly a comedy (more on that in a moment), once the characters learn that the monster is a flea, they are surprised -- after all, they aren't all crazy -- but they then move one with their lives. I wish I could be that laid back. The movie takes this premise in stride and acts as if it's an idea which no one would question.

The other odd thing about A Monster in Paris (although not as odd as the big flea, that's going to be tough to beat) is the way in which the film's focus shifts. At the outset, I assumed that Emile (who looks just like Elijah Wood) was going to be the main character, as we meet him first, but the focus quickly shifts to Raoul. Then, the movie seems to be more concerned with her Lucille and her encounter with the monster, whom she names Francouer. There is also a liberal dashing of Maynott on all of this. The movie attempts to give all of the characters equal screen time, but the jumping around makes it difficult to truly get a handle on anyone, and it makes the movie feel very random at times.

Having said that, if you can steer your way around the film's oddities, A Monster in Paris is pretty entertaining. Again, the story is original. The pace rarely drags and there are some nice action set-pieces. I don't know what the original dialogue track was like, but Adam Goldberg steals the show in the dubbed version as Raoul. Goldberg has proven in the past that he can play manic (see his stint on Friends), but it's Raoul's quick quips and funny asides which provide the most laughs. The animation is very stylized and runs a gamut from very detailed to questionable looking. The only real negative here are the songs. A Monster in Paris is not a musical per se, but there are a few musical numbers to show off Lucille and the monster's talent. (Hey, how come the monster can sing words, but he can't talk?) These songs aren't necessarily bad, but they aren't good either, and I found myself fast-forwarding through them. If you are tired of the homogeneous big-studio animated movies and low-budget rip-offs of said big movies and are looking for something a little...or a lot...different in an animated film, give A Monster in Paris a try. Younger kids will like the monster and older ones can be convinced that it's cool to watch a foreign film.

A Monster in Paris convinced me that Paris has an issue with pickpockets on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Shout! Factory. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects frmo the source material. Again, the movie is stylized, so we don't get the sort of bright colors we're used to with American animation. Still, the colors look fine and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good, but this also reveals how lackluster some of the animation is. The depth is fine on this 2D version. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good and show off sounds coming from the left or right channels. The surround sound effects come to life during the action scenes, and show good detail. The Blu-ray also contains the 3D version of the film, which has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and offers an MVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 19/10 Mbps. The depth here is good, but not great. The scenes in which Raoul is driving through the streets of Paris look fine, but other, more static scenes, retain a flat look. There is also a loss of detail in the 3D version.

The lone extra on A Monster in Paris Blu-ray Disc is a TRAILER for the film.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.