The Triplets of Belleville is a very unique animated film. Written and directed by Sylvian Chomet, also known for The Illusionist, the film was nominated for best animated feature in 2003, alongside Finding Nemo and Brother Bear. The characters are not designed to be overly cute, nor is there any catchy dialogue. Or any dialogue at all, for that matter. The film is simply a slow-paced, visual story that keeps us engaged by the wit, soul and odd humor that comes out of the characters.
We meet a grandmother and her grandson. As a boy, he seems very sad and lonely, so she tries all she can to make him happy. A puppy is a good start, but she realizes he loves bikes. Seeing the boy ride in circles on a new tricycle is a joy for both the viewer and the grandmother. The film jumps forward to the boy as an adult. He’s nearly unrecognizable, with his lanky body of a professional cyclist in training for the Tour de France. Alongside him through the newly developed streets outside Paris, is his ever supporting grandmother, being pulled behind on his old trike, whistling a tempo to keep his pace up.
During the race, something suspicious happens. The medical vehicle the grandmother was riding on to keep up with her grandson suffers a flat tire and at the end of the race, her grandson is nowhere to be found. Using the family dog (no longer a puppy, but a big hound of a sloppy dog) she discovers he’s been kidnapped and put on a ship. She follows the ship across dangerous waters into Belleville (which seems a bit like New York, considering the obese, burger clutching Statue of Liberty). With no money and now more leads, the grandmother has to rely on the help of strangers to find her grandson, and she teams up with three of the swingingest old gals in all of Belleville.
What I really love about this film is that even though the characters look odd and the story feels a little off-beat, there is still a wonderfully charming quality that shines through. Though she is quiet, the grandmother is very tenacious and has a fun way of thinking on her feet. The triplets are a hoot and bring quite a few laughs. Their style of music is catchy and fun. I especially loved their dinner scene (and how it’s caught!)
As wonderful as I believe this film is, I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone. Little ones may get bored with no dialogue or deterred by some of the odd looking characters. There are also a few off-color moments parents may not want their kids to see. However, for the more mature kids and their film loving parents, this could be a great transition from bouncy-noisy-Disney cartoons into a more subdued kind of animated film. Besides, there is still a great (Oscar nominated) song that will have people of all ages dancing along to it.
“Voodoo, can-can aren’t taboo. The world is strange in rendez-vous.”