The Triplets of Belleville (2003) / Animation-Comedy
aka Les Triplettes de Bellville
aka Belleville Rendez-Vous
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for sensuality, violence and crude humor
Running Time: 78 min.
Cast (voices): Michelle Caucheteux, Jean-Claude Donda, Michel Robin, Monica Viegas, Beatrice Bonifassi, Charles Prevost Linton
Director: Sylvain Chomet
Screenplay: Sylvain Chomet
The Triplets of Belleville's story begins with a grandmother, Madame de Souza, looking after her grandson, Champion. For gifts, Champion is given a dog and a tricycle, both of which would change his life. Flash forward many years, and Champion is now a professional cyclist, competing in the Tour de France, spurred on by his grandmother to push him harder. Calamity strikes when Champion is abducted by some mysterious men, leaving only his Madame de Souza and his faithful canine companion, Bruno, to find him again, in the crazy city known as Belleville.
Along with Finding Nemo, this is one of two major animated features released in 2003 in which a guardian must travel to rescue their child from certain doom, meeting a variety of different eccentric characters, and risking life and limb along the way. That's where the similarities end -- The Triplets of Belleville is fantastically unique in nearly every other way. A gorgeous mix of hand drawn animation, CGI, and video, Sylvain Chomet's wild adventure is a beautifully rendered odyssey that delights with humor and flair, even if it doesn't make a lick of sense in terms of intent. What is the true meaning of anything in this film? I haven't the slightest idea, but that doesn't mean I wasn't thoroughly enthralled by it every step of the way.
Although it's a French film, there's practically no dialogue, and what little there is, isn't essential to know. With influence from the works of Jacques Tati, the silent film style works well, although this isn't a silent film at all -- the audio and music are just as terrific as the visual elements. Even without dialogue, and with the highly surreal elements, The Triplets of Belleville is always cohesive, and once you get used to the idiosyncratic world these characters inhabit, it becomes surprisingly easy to relate to.
With inspired lunacy, jazzy flair, and heavy amusement, The Triplets of Belleville is a terrific feature that should please adults who normally eschew animated films because many lack imagination or pizzazz. Probably unlike almost anything else out there, this is also worth watching for those into offbeat independent or foreign films, and even though it's not necessarily for children, some kids may still find it quite funny (Just remember it is PG-13). Twisted and absurd, but refreshingly so.
P.S. Stay through the closing credits for one final scene -- it's worth waiting to get to.
©2004 Vince Leo