A French animated feature that seems a little like a combination of Jean Pierre-Jeunet and Terry Gilliam (with some Tim Burton thrown in), "The Triplets of Belleville" is director Sylvain Chomet's strange and wildly imaginative feature, which was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars.
The feature has little in the way of dialogue, but while your ears may be given a rest, your eyes will certainly not be. "Triplets", which took years to produce, is an overload of imagery - its style original, detail-packed and highly atmospheric. The picture revolves around Madame Souza and her Grandson, Champion. The madame finds a pastime for her grandson in a bike; over the years, boy and bike continue to be together often, as - with the Madame's training - Champion has become a professional cyclist.
Yet, trouble pops up in the most unexpected situation as gangsters kidnap Champion in the middle of the Tour De France, taking him to Belleville, a city that seems very much inspired by New York. Madame Souza sets out to save him, aided by Champion's loyal dog, Bruno, as well as the Triplets, a singing group. As for why the gangsters have their sights on Champion, I'll leave that as a surprise.
Although the picture starts off a little slowly, the pace gradually picks up and with all of the remarkable goings-on in every frame, my attention certainly never waivered. At 81 minutes, the film is relatively short, too. The film's animation is remarkable, the visual gags funny and, most importantly, the film surprises at every turn - nothing about it is remotely predictable. The picture may not be for everyone, but I was amazed by the film and consistently entertained.
Warning: The film is more for teens and adults than children, as the PG-13 rating would suggest.
VIDEO: "Triplets of Belleville" is presented by Columbia/Tristar in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture quality is quite wonderful, doing justice to the film's striking animation. Detail is clearly visible throughout, as the picture appeared to offer a consistently high level of sharpness and definition.
A little bit of compression artifacts are occasionally spotted in some of the darker scenes, but mostly, the film appeared free from that and edge enhancement. The print looked entirely spotless, with nothing in the way of debris, dirt or wear. The animated film's dazzling, rich color palette looked beautiful throughout the feature, with all of the subtle tones and shades appearing accurate and flawless. A terrific effort.
SOUND: "Triplets" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. Lacking much at all in the way of dialogue (which is mostly in French, despite the box listing it as English), the film must use a good deal of sound effects and ambience to help the images tell the story and reinforce actions or emotions. The soundtrack for this film does that quite beautifully, with a wealth of creative and imaginative sound effects. Audio quality was quite good, as sound effects were well-recorded and a couple of good booms heard in the picture were surprisingly powerful. Surrounds are engaged frequently to open up scenes and envelop the listener.
EXTRAS: Unfortunately, there isn't a great deal in the way of supplements. Director Sylvain Chomet can be heard providing interesting commentary over three scenes from the film and in two featurettes. The first featurette is a 15-minute "making of", where we learn more about the animation process, the look of the film and inspirations. The second feature, "The Cartoon According to Sylvain Chomet" is really an extension of the first piece, as we get more interview footage from the director about the film's production. We also get a music video and the film's trailer.
Final Thoughts: While the story isn't terribly deep, the extraordinary animation is incredible to view and does a very fine job saying what, in this case, dialogue does not. Columbia/Tristar's DVD edition provides excellent audio/video quality and a handful of decent supplements. Recommended.
The Film *** 1/2