Weighing in on A Monster in Paris’ Differing Video Releases

4 Aug

By Ed Sum

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Disney’s writers could learn a thing or two from A Monster In Parisir?t=wiupgeatthmo 20&l=as2&o=1&a=B00AWHDF5S, now available to North America courtesy of Shout! Factory. But viewers are advised to find the Alliance Films release since it carries bonus material. Not only that, but viewers get to meet the faces behind the two leading characters. They explain just how much of themselves is put into the role, and when there is a flea going by the name of Francœur (voiced by French singer-songwriter M) to be adored, this movie is one to watch.

This film engages audiences with an imaginative reworking of the Phantom of the Opera formula with the visual stylings of the Hunchback of Nortre Dame.

That said, yes this computer animated product has some Disney-esque elements to it—namely with Charles the monkey providing some comedic relief—but at least this simian proves to be smarter than the average man. He’s the maestro to which Florquer has sprung from. While spinning many a tune from his musical box, the flea which has been living on him grew to become the exceptional singer. The irony is that he has also been hit with an experimental fertilizer, a growth formula, which causes him to be the monster that all Parisians fear.

To a lesser extent, this film evokes a few ideas from Luc Besson’s Moulin Rouge to make this film accessible and familiar. With no surprise, this director helped produce this computer animated film. He may have well encouraged developing the subplot about two men, Emil and Raol looking for love. They each have a woman to woo, and both seem to have problems when there is a Commissioner causing problems for them. When everyone but this officer are in on knowing who the Monster of Paris is—and that he represents no threat—that’s when the fun begins.

The songs featured in this film are timeless, evoking images of Édith Piaf gracing a nightclub stage, and its tough not to fall in love with a flea dressed up like he belongs to the Caribbean. His characterization is fun to watch. The dark elements are nicely played up to evoke a sense of what his alien nature is like, but ultimately he turns out to be quite peaceful. The charm is that his role was perfectly cast. Both M and Sean Lennon (the English dub voice actor) sell the fact that despite the fact that Francoeur has a large presence, he has an operatic falsetto voice. And Lucillle, the singer who discovers him, is voiced by an equally talented French singer, Vanessa Paradis. Both the character and performer is demure and alluring. Lucille’s passion is every evident and to have Paradis provide the voice in both the English and French track of the video release is testament to providing consistency for an animated product to be available to a wider audience.

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Francoeur and Lucille are like birds of a feather; their duets are engaging, colorful and evocative, especially the update to the classic, “La Seine.” This tune is particularly fun and toe-tapping. Even the end number, “Just a Little Kiss,” is quite fun with its modern pop sound. While not every tune is period specific, the variety is terrific. Viewers enthralled with this period music may well want to own the album. Not many soundtracks are worth owning even though the same can not be said for the DVD/Blu-ray bare-bones release. No extras are offered in Shout! Factory’s release.

The producers spent a good amount of time in delivering a quality product. But fans of international films are best to track down the either the UK or Canadian release (via Alliance Films) since it contains the original French language track. In the latter version, a few extras are included, like an interesting featurette about the choreography in the musical numbers. Perhaps some motion capture was done but the number was recorded with two real dancers for the animators to work with. While not everyone may understand these French language tracks, the visuals speak for themselves. Also, viewers get to meet the faces behind the voices, see how foley sound is recorded and meet the monster in the other shorts. Even the dubbing process is explored. Although the English dub is very well done, there is nothing like watching a film as it was originally intended.

4½ Stars out of 5

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