Perhaps A Cat in Paris would’ve had a bit more of that je ne sais quoi were it released in its original French. As it stands, this animated film from Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol, a curious contender for best animated film at the 2012 Oscars (blame Cars 2), is a slight and fitfully amusing story that holds your interest mostly because it’s barely 70 minutes long.
The plot involves a kitty named Dino who lives a double life. By day, he’s the affectionate, reptile-killing pet of Zoe (Lauren Weintraub), a girl who largely stopped speaking after her father’s murder and longs for the attention of her busy mother (Marcia Gay Harden), a police superintendent. At night, Dino sneaks out to accompany a—wait for it—cat burglar named Nico (Steve Blum), who leaps across rooftops and helps himself to the spoils of Paris’ wealthy. One night while Zoe’s mother is working, trying to stop the latest crime planned by the mobster who killed her husband, Zoe decides to follow Dino to see what he’s up to after dark—and falls into the villain’s hands.
In an era of sensory-overload 3D CGI, A Cat in Paris’ most welcome feature is that it’s simply drawn: Its characters are angular, its cars bulbous. There’s a slight—very slight—sprinkling of gentle humor in the screenplay, penned by Gagnol with a dialogue assist from Jacques-Remy Girérd. (Its funniest scene is a Reservoir Dogs homage in which the mobster’s minions whine about their code names.) It’s all amiable enough, but not particularly memorable. You never really feel that Zoe’s in any real danger, but her fraught relationship with Mom, at least, is touchingly rendered. And the cat? Well, the titular character seems to disappear for much of the film as the humans fall into their escapades. He was probably in a corner somewhere, dozing.