The Triplets Of Belleville

2003, Movie, PG-13, 80 mins

Review

TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE, THE | LES TRIPLETTES DE BELLEVILLE
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Though a cartoon, French animator Sylvain Chomet's often surreal and almost wordless film is definitely not a children's picture in the Disney sense. The highly stylized look, all B&W or dull-colored images, and mumbled dialogue may be off-putting to viewers accustomed to bright, loud and fast-paced cartoon features, but it should appeal to adventurous types looking for a more challenging animated feature. Sweet, loving grandmother Madame Souza has become the caretaker of her sad and lonely young grandson, Champion. She attempts to perk him up by offering piano lessons and buying him a dog, Bruno. Though Champion befriends the amiable and loyal mutt, who barks constantly at regularly passing trains, the boy still seems blue. Madame Souza finally stumbles upon the solution when she presents Champion with a new bicycle, and under her demanding training regimen, he grows up to compete in the famed Tour de France. But in the heat of the road race, Champion is kidnapped by several mysterious, no-necked men and loaded onto a large ship. The enterprising and determined Madame Souza bundles Bruno and herself into a small dinghy and diligently follows the ship to a bustling metropolis called Belleville. There they find assistance in the form of the titular triplets, three aging music-hall stars who offer the new arrivals food and shelter. The unlikely team then attempts to extricate Champion from the clutches of the local mafia. Make no mistake, writer-director Chomet (who earned an Oscar nomination for his animated 1998 short The Old Lady and the Pigeons) delivers many laugh-out-loud moments, including the affable Bruno's Pavlovian response to the faintest rumble of an oncoming train and the sight of plump Madame Souza pedaling a tiny tricycle behind her muscular, grown grandson. But for each amusing gag there's a corresponding darkly humorous conceit, like the triplets' obsession with slimy frogs or Madame Souza's unorthodox training methods. The film occasionally drags despite its many standout scenes and 80-minute running time, and despite Chomet's homages to animation pioneers ranging from Tex Avery to Dave Fleischer, who created Betty Boop. The manic energy of the lively and outrageous opening sequence sets a tone and pace the film can't maintain. leave a comment --Angel Cohn

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