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DVD Review: ‘A Monster in Paris’

★★☆☆☆
Easily one of the strangest animations released over the last few years, French fancy A Monster in Paris (Un Monstre à Paris, 2011) returns audiences to Georges Méliès ‘City of Light’, realised so well last year in Martin Scorsese’s Hugo (2011). Set around the same era, and with several nods to Méliès himself, Bibo Bergeron’s fantasy follows the exploits of a grossly over-sized flea with ambitions of singing stardom. Très bizarre, non? Bergeron’s film begins with an introduction to its two central characters, eccentric inventor Raoul (Gad Elmaleh/Adam Goldberg) and his stunted, lovesick best friend Emile (Sébastien Desjours/Jay Harrington).

During a delivery call to Méliès’ wondrous workshop, the pair accidentally spill a remarkable potion that consequently creates Francoeur, a 7ft-tall flea with the voice of an angel and a heart of gold. With the help of beautiful yet feisty local singer Lucille (Vanessa Paradis), the trio set out to protect their newly-created friend from the unscrupulous Commissioner Maynott (François Cluzet/Danny Huston ), who plans to boost his profile by capturing – or killing Francoeur, the recently titled ‘Monster of Paris’.

A lot of time and affection has clearly been poured into A Monster in Paris by Bergeron himself, who dedicates the film to his late father. Paris has been painstakingly recreated through a not-unappealing visual blend of stop-motion and CGI, with smoking chimneys and the fog-covered Seine particular highlights. However, those who have seen previous Bergeron outings – including 2004 DreamWorks collaboration Shark Tale – may find themselves in over-familiar territory.

Aesthetics aside, the film’s true highlights are several marvellously choreographed, delightfully delivered song-and-dance numbers, including title track A Monster in Paris. Francoeur’s otherworldly falsetto works terrifically well during several duets with Lucille, and the musical genre is firmly evoked as the pair drift high above the stage and into the Parisian night sky. Sadly, such set pieces are few-and-far between, with Bergeron seemingly more interested in Maynott’s destructive pursuit of the giant insectoid.

Too dialogue-heavy and lacking in humour for younger audiences (a running joke about Raoul’s straw coat falls flat on several occasions), whilst simultaneously offering little in the way of entertainment for adults, A Monster in Paris’ fanbase is likely to be small, loyal and almost certainly cineliterate. For the rest of us, Bergeron’s latest folly is unlikely to register more than the occasional raised smile.

Daniel Green