This is part of an ongoing review series for the films featured on 366weirdmovies.com‘s Certifiably Weird list. My goal is to watch and review all of them (even if it kills me). These reviews may contain spoilers.
The Triplets of Belleville (2003)
Director: Sylvain Chomet
Starring: Béatrice Bonifassi & Lina Boudreault
What’s it about?
Madame Souza trains her grandson, Champion, to be a professional cyclist and enters him in the Tour de France. But when Champion is kidnapped by the French mafia during the race, Souza must travel to Belleville to rescue him (with the help of three musical sisters and a loyal dog).
Is it any good?
When it comes to handing out awards for the best in cinema, the Oscars are fairly predictable. The Triplets of Belleville was nominated for Best Animated Film and Best Original Song (“Belleville Rendez-vous”), but lost both awards to much more obvious winners. In case you don’t follow the Oscars as closely as I do, this film lost to Finding Nemo and The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King in those respective categories. Yeah, those films had much bigger budgets (and names) attached to them, but neither of them had the charm of this little French number.
The animation style of The Triplets of Belleville is definitely unique. It’s hand-drawn, but it’s not Disneyfied or even remotely reminiscent of Japanese anime. The characters and the setting have such fluidity and the colors are muted, so they’re not too distracting. I love animation like this. Call me old fashioned, but I very much prefer hand-drawn cartoons to computer-animated ones. They just feel more genuine.
The plot is simple enough, but the delivery is probably what landed the film on the weird movie list. There is almost no dialogue, so much of the story is told through pantomime. But that approach definitely works because it strips away all the unnecessary chatter. We get each character’s quirks through their movements (i.e. the dog’s internal schedule with the train). And the triplets are perfectly characterized without having to say a single word (their singing alone is enough of an introduction to their personalities).
Back to the animation (because it’s honestly incredible), I absolutely love the exaggeration in the background characters. Other than Souza, Champion, and the triplets, the characters have exaggerated features, and that’s what I like to see in a cartoon. Though it’s always impressive to see hand-drawn characters that look shockingly realistic, there’s something about cartoonish renderings that just looks so enchanting.
So did The Triplets of Belleville really deserve those Oscars? Well, that’s tough to say. If you always root for the underdog, you’ll probably answer “yes” to that question. But comparing this film to Finding Nemo is essentially comparing apples to oranges. Pixar/Disney films tend to win the Best Animated Film category, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the other nominated films. Give the underdogs a chance. You won’t regret it.
Grade: A- (for exceptional animation and unique execution)
Weirdness Score: 8/10 (or, weird enough to be the first PG-13 rated film to be nominated for Best Animated Film)
[Read the more in-depth 366 Weird Movies review here.]