Finding Nemo was awarded the Best Animated Film at the Oscars this year, but it's runner-up, the French film The Triplets of Belleville is a lot more original and strangely funnier. Throw in some creative traditional animation and you have the movie that should have won.
The Triplets of Belleville tells the weird story of Champion, a goofy-looking boy that is raised by his grandmother, Madame Souza. After years of training, Champion makes it to the Tour de France, only to be kidnapped by a bunch of sleazy mobsters. Madame Souza, determined to find her grandson, teams up with the Belleville Triplets, three aged women who at one time were glamorous singers, to find Champion and bring him home.
It is hard to effectively explain what is so great about this movie, other than that the animators put their hearts and souls into creating the most intriguing and strange characters, encased in one of the most intriguing and strange worlds. The entire movie is alive with funny little bits of humor, most of which cannot be explained, only watched.
More precisely, The Triplets of Belleville succeeds at capturing the way the world is and then enlarging and exaggerating some of those things and throwing them into a cartoon world. For instance, one of the best characters in the movie is the dog, Bruno, who, unlike most cartoon dogs, does not sing, dance or act like a human. Instead, the animators treat Bruno like a normal dog (albeit a rather large dog) because dogs are just inherently funny in their behavior. In one scene, Bruno waits idly by the clock, well aware of when the train rushes by the window. When the clock strikes the right time, he runs upstairs and starts barking. When the train has passed, he goes and lays down some more. The animators have captured the very essence of what makes the world funny.
Though all of the characters are great, another of the top players is, of course, the lead character, Madame Souza. She's a short little woman with big eyes. She rarely talks but the animators are so good that they capture everything she needs to say in her expressions. The scenes when she is blowing her whistle are especially entertaining.
Again, the movie succeeds because it is willing to make fun of funny things that go on in the world. There is very little talking among any of the characters, yet dialogue isn't necessary to make the movie hilarious. This is why Disney cartoons have been suffering so much lately; they put so much emphasis on just having goofy characters (typically talking animals) in goofy situations that they distance themselves from the audience they are trying to relate to. The Triplets of Belleville is not inherently a child's cartoon, but the idea is the same; most of the time, the funniest things are the things that happen to us.
The Triplets of Belleville is a movie not to be missed. While it is a film that is fairly acceptable for children to watch, adults will find it much funnier as it relates so well to how the world is (plus a little exaggeration). Finding Nemo was good, but this one is great.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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