The Triplets of Belleville

"OK"

The Triplets of Belleville Review


There's a good reason why Finding Nemo was on my top 10 list for 2003, along with many of my other colleagues. Take away the imagination-bending animation and superb voice work and there's a riveting story of sacrifice and family love. You could tell your kid that story at bedtime, without a team of animators, and I'd guarantee you that the little tyke would be captivated.

The Triplets of Belleville, one of 2003's more prominent animated features, isn't on a lot of our lists. Here's why. Triplets has a memorable visual style that words have a hard time capturing, but it's not a great movie because there's no compelling narrative or anything else to support the artistic flourishes. Style shouldn't take a backseat to story in any medium, and that includes animation. Just ask fans of The Simpsons and comic books.

In Triplets, there is a story -- an elderly French woman goes to absurd lengths to find her cyclist grandson, who is kidnapped by the French mafia for gambling purposes. While on her lengthy search, accompanied by the cyclist's comically obese dog, she ends up in Belleville (which has a fat Statue of Liberty and even fatter citizens. Ha, ha.), where she is helped by the titular triplets, an elderly trio of singing sisters.

Animation and concepts dominate the movie's 80 minutes, so much so that you wonder why writer, director, and "character designer" Sylvain Chomet even bothered with a story at all. There are plenty of eye opening segments -- trips inside the dog's food-driven imagination, a lengthy, a comical look at the old woman massaging the cyclist's sore muscles, a musical number that doesn't involve any conventional instruments -- but they do little in making a lasting, overall impression. In fact, these fevered, meticulously drawn visuals are the movie. That's great for art students and future animation whizzes, but not for most moviegoers. The sprinkles of humor (the aforementioned jab at America's obesity epidemic) seem like afterthoughts.

However, I do admire a movie like Triplets because it goes out on a limb with its bizzaro animation and its loose-limbed plotline. I like to have my buttons pushed, but if there isn't anything there to complement it, then I feel like I'm being patronized, no matter how much advance critical acclaim the movie brings with it.

Recent movies have straddled that line so much better. David Lynch's Mulholland Drive had a fever dream storyline, but it worked because Lynch spun it as a wicked Hollywood satire and because Naomi Watts was flat out brilliant. Steven Shainberg's Secretary had an S&M plot line, but what made the movie one of my favorites of 2002 was that it concentrated on two lost, sheltered souls finding themselves. And, of course, there's Pulp Fiction. Quentin Tarantino punched every button with his fist, but somehow managed to make a philosophical, humane and funny masterpiece.

Triplets of Belleville doesn't have much to offer outside of its technical achievements, which is both amazing and a shame, considering Chomet's fertile imagination.

Aka Les Triplettes de Belleville

Nothing like reading the paper at the movies.



The Triplets of Belleville

Facts and Figures

Run time: 78 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 11th June 2003

Box Office Worldwide: $1.5M

Budget: $8M

Production compaines: Production Champion, Vivi Film

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

IMDB: 7.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: Béatrice Bonifassi as Les Triplettes (voice), Lina Boudreau as Les Triplettes (voice), Michèle Caucheteux as voice, as voice, Suzy Falk as Les Triplettes (voice)

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