A Cat in Paris

Courtesy of GKKids

This best animated feature Oscar nominee beguiles with its French nostalgia and '60s graphic look.

The French-language A Cat in Paris, one of the year's two animated feature nominees that took Oscar prognosticators by surprise (the other was Chico & Rita), is a delightfully stylized caper involving a mute little girl, her pet cat and a cat burglar.

Owing a sly tip of the beret to influences ranging from Matisse to Tarantino, the hand-drawn policier may not be the most inspired animated import, but it beguiles without requiring 3D glasses or a mass of merchandising. While it remains to be seen whether that's enough to take on Puss in Boots and company, Cat in Paris -- slated to be released domestically later this year -- has a couple of things going in its favor.

The first is the rare absence of a Pixar threat this year, what with Cars 2 failing to make it through the starting gate.

The second is the Academy's apparent love affair with a certain brand of French nostalgia, also served up by The Artist, Hugo and Midnight in Paris.

Speaking of the latter, much of this roughly one-hour film takes place during the nocturnal hours across the shadowy rooftops of Paris, where Nico (voiced by Bruno Salomone, who plays in a band with The Artist's Jean Dujardin) flees with a rubbery grace after pinching loot from his sleeping victims' homes.

He's usually joined on his exploits by Dino, a black cat who leads a double life. During the day, Dino cuddles up beside Zoe (Oriane Zani), a lonely little girl rendered mute after her father's death at the hands of Victor Costa (Jean Benguigui), a gangster who'll stop at nothing to get his hands on a rare statue known as the Colossus of Nairobi.

Meanwhile, Zoe's widowed mom (Dominique Blanc), a police detective, is determined to put Costa away for good, and she ends up getting help from an unanticipated direction.

Incorporating an angular graphic style that recalls the work of virtuoso movie-title-sequence designer Saul Bass, directors Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol have created a jazzy, noir-tinged storybook rendition of a mythical Paris, backed by a Bernard Herrmann-esque score and a title character that struts its stuff like Audrey Hepburn circa Stanley Donen's Charade.

Release date TBD (GKIDS)
Voices Dominique Blanc, Bruno Salomone, Jean Benguigui
Directors Jean-Loup Felicioli, Alain Gagnol
No rating, 70 minutes

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