The Triplets of Belleville by Sylvain Chomet (Review)

This is completely different from any other animated film you’ve likely seen in the past few years.
The Triplets of Belleville

Immediately following Dogville, I rejoined the line outside the theater for The Triplets of Belleville, a French-produced animated feature playing on the same screen as Dogville and providing a much needed lift in mood. Advance word on this film was universally positive so I had high expectations and was not at all disappointed.

The Triplets of Belleville is completely different from any other animated film you’ve likely seen in the past few years. With absolutely minimal dialogue — maybe 10 or 15 lines scattered throughout the film — the Triplets tells its story almost entirely through visuals. The animation style looks back to the earliest days of animation with character designs reminiscent of those old Steamboat Willy cartoons fused with the art deco style of the 1930’s, which coincidentally is the era the film opens in.

The film begins with a lonely little fat kid, stuck living with his grandmother in the middle of nowhere and extremely bored. Grandma tries everything she can think of to cheer up the child, including buying him a puppy, without any luck… until she spots a newspaper clipping of a cyclist pinned to the wall beside his bed. She buys him a tricycle which he happily rides in circles around and around in the yard. Fade out.

When we rejoin the trio, the lonely little fat kid is now a lean beanpole in training for the Tour de France with the help of his Grandma, while the dog, now very large, contents himself by barking at passing trains from the upstairs window and waiting for the humans to come home and feed him. Tragedy strikes when the grandson, along with two other riders, is kidnapped and taken to parts unknown during the Tour. It is up to the grandmother and dog to travel across the country to find and save him. Along the way, they meet up with the Triplets of the title, an old Vaudeville act whose star has now faded and who come along to help out. They also blow up a lot of frogs.

The characters in this film are rich and full, and the entire film is loaded with a sense of whimsy and fantasy from start to finish that puts anything Disney has done for at least the past decade to shame. In particular, the work on the dog deserves special notice as the animators have absolutely nailed every little tick and mannerism, and the dog dream sequences are absolutely hysterical.

Written by Chris Brown.

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