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WARNING/PARENTAL HEADS UP!: There is some female nudity, but not a whole lot of it. Viewer’s discretion is advised. Enjoy the review!
So, we have seen crazy and insane storytelling done badly that was entertaining to watch in a “so good, it’s bad” kind of way, but what about watching an animated film that is all sorts of crazy, but was done well enough to be considered one of the all-time great animated films? As we have seen in a lot of animated movies and shows, it seems like the most popular form of comedy is being fast-paced, over-the-top, or flat-out crazy. Even then, there is an art and style to said creative comedy. You can’t just be loud and visually weird and unusual. If you are all just flash and no substance, why should we waste our time with you? Yeah, shows like Adventure Time, Steven Universe, and films like The LEGO Movie are over-the-top, unique in their visuals, and have interesting senses of humor, but they all have good stories and characters you love and want to invest into. This is why, after that trainwreck of glorious/horrible animation that was MD Geist, I wanted to look at an odd, surreal, but amazing movie like The Triplets of Belleville. This movie was released back in 2003, winning critical acclaim and multiple award nominations. The Triplets of Belleville was directed by Sylvain Chomet, the man behind the 1991 animated film, The Old Lady and the Pigeons, and the 2010 animated, The Illusionist. So, is this film as good now as it was back in 2003? Well, let’s find out!
The story revolves around a grandmother named Madam Souza and her grandson named Champion. They live a simple life, until the day she finds out her grandson has a fascination with cycling. After getting her grandson a tricycle, the years pass, and we see the son is training for the grand pike race known as the Tour de France. During the race, Champion gets kidnapped by the French Mafia, and taken over to a romanticized version of New York. Madan Souza and her dog go after him, only to find themselves lost in the big city. Luckily for them, they end up encountering the famed Triplets of Belleville, three famous vaudeville singers from back in the day. Can they get Souza’s son back from the French Mafia?
So, this is a French 2D animated film about a grandmother, her dog, and three old ladies taking on the French Mafia to get the grandmother’s grandson back, with some of the most unusual and ugly (in a good way) artstyles ever implemented. Yeah, it’s a weird and sort of crazy film, but it all works! Why does it work? Well, maybe because while it has some unusual and crazy visuals, the story and characters are kept simple and easy to understand. You really get invested in and charmed by the individual characters, and this is amazing since there is basically no dialogue in the film. There is some at the beginning and end, but they are there to pretty much bookmark the start and end of the film. The only dialogue you hear is from the radio. Luckily, the execution of the animation and art design makes it quite clear to know what is going on with all of the character’s goals and intentions.
Speaking of animation, it is beautifully done. The art direction is what really makes this film stand out. It’s about as anti-Disney and DreamWorks as you can get, with humans that are quite frankly over-exaggerated and gross-looking. However, I mean that in the best way possible. Unlike the third-party tripe you get, the characters are well designed and have very memorable looks and diverse animations. I think some of my favorite character designs come from the grunts of the French Mafia. They look like walking dominos, and are just cool to look at. The overall presentation, like I have mentioned, is over-the-top and reminds me of caricatures. It’s rather beautiful in that regard. I love it when I get to see different art styles put into play, and in my opinion, more films need to do this instead of trying to be another DreamWorks and Pixar knock-off. The music is just groovy and jazzy. I love the original song that was nominated for best original song. It’s catchy and just a fun song to listen to.
If I had to complain about something, it would be this weird little hiccup that I saw with the English subtitles. Even though there is no talking, when you see the TV or radio sequences where there is dialogue, the English subtitles turn to French subtitles when you watch the film in English. Why is that a thing? I even watched it in French and the English subtitles are still French. That is such a huge hiccup in terms of the tech department that it’s kind of baffling that some employee didn’t quality control this part. Hopefully they fix this with a Criterion or Blu-Ray release. Heck, why isn’t this film part of the Criterion collection? It would look amazing.
The Triplets of Belleville is nothing short of a modern classic. It deserves to be talked about more than it does. I know it’s a famous movie, but man, this film got better the more times I watched it. Sadly, you can only get this movie in a DVD format, but if you can get it, I would highly recommend it. It’s pretty cheap and I even found a collector’s edition of sorts that had a ton of extras and both the French and English version of the film. I just want to keep praising this film for hours, but I would then be repeating myself. So, let’s move onto a film that could have been something better than expected, even with bad advertising, but was just a bad film overall. Next time, we look at Hell and Back. Thanks for checking out my work, and see you all next time!