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A Monster in Paris 3D(2011)
Paris,1910. Emile, a shy movie projectionist, and Raoul, a colorful inventor, find themselves embarked on the hunt for a monster terrorizing citizens. They join forces with Lucille, the big-hearted star of the Bird of Paradise cabaret, an eccentric scientist and his irascible monkey to save the monster, who turns out to be an oversized but harmless flea, from the city's ruthlessly ambitious police chief.
For more about A Monster in Paris 3D and the A Monster in Paris 3D Blu-ray release, see A Monster in Paris 3D Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on March 15, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Vanessa Paradis, Sean Lennon, Jay Harrington, Adam Goldberg
Director: Bibo Bergeron
» See full cast & crew
A Monster in Paris 3D Blu-ray Review
A Flea in Her Ear, or: The Phantom of the Cabaret
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, March 15, 2013
Georges Feydeau was a master farceur who may have been active during the so-called Belle Époque but whose lively comedies harkened back to other iconic French playwrights like Molière. One of Feydeau's most beloved farces was A Flea in Her Ear, a perfect example of the "slamming door" approach to comedy, with characters storming in and out of rooms, a glut of mistaken identities, politically incorrect elements like people with speech impediments and of course "l'amour" both sacred and profane leading to uproarious laughter. But isn't that title just a bit—well, odd? The phrase has been around for centuries and was evidently originally meant to convey provoking desire in someone, which later morphed into provoking suspicion or jealousy in someone, but as far as metaphors go, it's certainly on the bizarre side. Someone involved with A Monster in Paris, a charming if not entirely successful French animated effort from 2012, was decidedly more of a literalist, for the film includes an actual flea in an actual ear at one point, an obvious if whimsical reference to both the long-lived phrase and Feydeau's famous play. But getting to that visual pun is a rather convoluted path that includes a mousy film projectionist (is there any other kind?), a machinating deliveryman, a corrupt police official, a sweet ticket booth salesgirl, a frustrated cabaret singer and, not to put too fine a point on it, a certain insect that is more commonly thought of as afflicting the itchiness of canines rather than humming into anyone's ear. A Monster in Paris received rather rapturous reviews during its theatrical exhibition in France in 2012, but the film failed to catch on at the box office. Unfortunately, there are some problems that might be fall into the general category of "lost in translation" with regard to the English language version presented on this Blu-ray, and my hunch is the film may not get much of an audience on this side of the pond in its home video version, despite having a largely winning animation style and a relatively unusual plot. For those who are willing to cut the film a little slack, however, there's an uncommonly charming ambience to A Monster in Paris that may not rise to Feydeau's manic level of farce, but which has a gently amusing air that should appeal to children of all ages.
Though we sometimes don't think about when we're watching animated fare, the voice actors are among the most responsible parties in terms of whether or not a film inherently succeeds or fails (which has nothing to do with its eventual box office performance). A well voiced feature can overcome limitations in the animation style, while on the other hand even a brilliantly animated film can seem lackluster due to ineffective voice work. A Monster in Paris isn't at either of those extremes, but the English voice cast included on this Blu-ray features some odd choices which may not work as well as might have been hoped. The film was actually marketed in France and Britain (its two biggest theatrical markets) as starring Vanessa Paradis, but the fact is her role here is not really a bona fide starring one but more of an ensemble performance. And while Sean Lennon provides a certain cachet as the singing voice of the aforementioned flea, some of the actual speaking actors are fairly nonchalant, lacking the requisite energy that a film of this decidedly whimsical type needs. Too often some of the voice actors seem to think they're in a stoner comedy rather than a childlike fable of a mutant flea who becomes a singing sensation.
The basic plot of A Monster in Paris obviously owes at least as much to Gaston Leroux and The Phantom of the Opera than it does to Feydeau and A Flea in Her Ear. Introspective film projectionist Emile (Jay Harrington) has a crush on his box office worker Maud (Madeline Zima). Emile's best friend is the kind of outré delivery driver Raoul (Adam Goldberg), whose childhood friend Lucille (Vanessa Paradis) is a famous nightclub singer. Lucille's family is trying to force her into an arranged marriage with an obviously corrupt policeman named Maynott (Danny Huston). When Raoul brings Emile along on an unusual delivery, they end up in a humongous greenhouse that is tended to by a monkey named Charles. Defying instructions left by Charles' owner, a scientist who works in the greenhouse, Raoul starts investigating the labyrinthine environs and ends up wreaking havoc when he manages to manifest a gigantic sunflower by using a super powered fertilizer (he also manages to give Charles a lovely singing voice). The calamity that ensues ends up creating the "monster", which it is ultimately revealed is actually a tiny flea that has, like the sunflower, grown to immense proportions and, like Charles, has developed a lovely singing voice. (It's no great spoiler to mention the "real" identity of the so-called monster, for it's given up within seconds in the film's own trailer).
All of these strands (and characters) are interwoven in the film's somewhat manic second act, when Lucille decides to put the flea, now named Francoeur, in her act, while Maynott figures out that Emile and Raoul were somehow involved in unleashing this fearsome "beast" on the general public. The film is amiable and almost always a delight to watch, but at the same time it is rarely as funny as any given Pixar outing and it also has a curious distance that keeps it from ever being as touching as one might hope. (The film was directed by Bibo Bergeron, who directed such frankly second tier American fare as The Road to El Dorado and Shark Tale.) Part of this is due to, as mentioned above, the strangely lackadaisical approach that Harrington and (especially) Goldberg bring to their roles. If they can't be bothered to be excited about the characters they're voicing, why should we?
A Monster in Paris 3D Blu-ray, Video Quality
A Monster in Paris is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Shout! Factory with both AVC (2D) and MVC (3D) encoded 1080p transfers in 1.85:1. The film has an often incredibly winning animation style, though it tends to dabble more in diffuse lighting conditions and paler colors that may lead some to believe this high definition presentation doesn't pop with the same "wow factor" that many American animated features regularly offer. There's been an obvious attempt to mimic some of the better known poster (and other) artists of the Belle Époque, and so we're shown sometimes rather Baroque or Rococo settings that are filled with admirable detail, inhabited by some generally distinctive (though at times kind of generic looking) characters (Francoeur is delightful, though he looks like a gigantic blue mutant version of some of the characters in A Bug's Life or Antz). The film was created entirely in the digital realm, and so the transfer here is exceptional on purely technical terms, offering an artifact free recreation of that original digital version.
The 3D presentation is somewhat less successful, due in fact in part to the kind of pastel driven color palette and the hazy Parisian environments that Bergeron tends to favor. The film regularly tries at least to offer forefront objects with clearly delineated planes of depth offering a semblance of background perspective, but the overall feeling here is just a bit on the lackluster side. The best effects tend to be (perhaps ironically) in close-ups, where there's actually less to look at. Little scenes like Francoeur's bony blue fingers reaching for an object actually provide a better sense of 3D immersion than some of the wider shots, which suffer from relative flatness and shallowness.
A Monster in Paris 3D Blu-ray, Audio Quality
A Monster in Paris features a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that does a fantastic job of creating consistent surround activity as well as offering some very fun musical elements (co-written by Paradis). The bustling streets of Paris offer a glut of foley effect opportunities, including some great panning effects as Raoul madly drives his delivery truck (named Catherine) through winding streets. Other environments, including the greenhouse and the cabaret, offer really nicely rendered ambience, with a lot of depth and environmental nuance (the sounds in the greenhouse are especially evocative and benefit from great discrete channelization). Fidelity is excellent, with dialogue, effects and the very charming score very well prioritized. Dynamic range is relatively restrained, though there are some occasional bursts of activity that offer some variety.
A Monster in Paris 3D Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
A Monster in Paris 3D Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Americans have gotten pretty spoiled over the past several years with a number of stellar animated features from Pixar, Disney and DreamWorks (among many others). The bar is so much higher now that features that might otherwise be seen as incredibly ingratiating are perhaps unfairly maligned as not capturing magic in a bottle in quite the same way (or to the same extent) as the blockbusters that regularly fill American cineplexes. That's probably the case with A Monster in Paris as well. The film is undeniably charming, with a breezy animation style and a generally engaging plot, and yet it fails to really connect with the audience in that "straight to the heartstrings" way that so many Pixar features especially seem easily able to. This film is no doubt going to appeal to younger kids especially, who will probably be entranced with the visuals. Older audiences will probably love those same visuals but wonder where the magic underpinning them is. This Blu-ray offers superior video and audio, and with caveats noted, comes Recommended.
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A Monster in Paris 3D Blu-ray, News and Updates
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• A Monster in Paris Blu-ray - January 9, 2013
Shout! Factory, in collaboration with EuropaCorp, will release a two-disc Blu-ray 3D combo pack edition of Bibo Bergeron's A Monster in Paris (2011), featuring an exceptional English-language voice cast of French singing sensation Vanessa Paradis, singer/song ...
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