The Painting (Le Tableau): Film Review

Tableau Film Still - H 2013
Lovely but lifeless 'toon is none too subtle in delivering its multicultural moral.

Jean-Francois Laguionie stocks his animated film with characters who know they're living inside a painting.

As imaginative in its visuals as it is familiar in all other respects, Jean-Francois Laguionie's The Painting is a parable of tolerance whose argument is as unsubtle as the old Frank Gorshin-starring Star Trek episode in which the aliens with black on the left sides of their faces hate the ones with black on the right halves. Kids with healthy attention spans may warm to its (literally) colorful characters and outside-the-frame action, but most will find it as lifeless as their parents do.

Beginning in a world defined by a single painting, the film offers quasi-Fauvist environs inhabited by three races: the Alldunns, whose skin and wardrobe sports a lively jumble of hues; the Halfies, who aren't wholly colored in; and the Sketchies, a self-explanatory breed of unfortunates who are hunted and taunted by their betters. All speak of "The Painter," a god expected to one day return and finish his creation, but most of the Alldunns are ready to declare that prophesy dead and get comfortable with their privileged status.

Star-crossed lovers Claire (a Halfie) and Ramo (an Alldun) yearn for the prophesy's fulfillment, though. When Claire goes missing, Ramo joins her best friend Lola and a resentful Sketchie on a Wizard of Oz-like quest -- climbing beyond the frame of their own painting and into others in search of the man who can make things right.

If their quest offers some amusing changes of setting, it also suffers from a predictable narrative and some lifeless technical implementation: While the design of the characters is painterly and sometimes gorgeous, their movement is too obviously computer-generated; and at least in this English-language version of the French film, ambient sound has a canned quality that leaves the action feeling, well, two-dimensional. Pascal Le Pennec's old-fashioned orchestral score, which recalls a Fantasia-era animation industry that knew how to make painted figures come alive on screen, furthers problems for grown-up 'toon connoisseurs.

Production Companies: Blue Spirit Animation, Be Films

Cast: Kamali Minter, Michael Sintemiklaas, Eden Riegel, Marc Thompson, Vinnie Penna, Colin Depaula, Spike Spencer

Director: Jean-Francois Laguionie

Screenwriters: Anik Le Ray, Jean-Francois Laguionie, Stephanie Sheh

Music: Pascal Le Pennec

No rating, 79 minutes