This is one of those great movies which you may be unwilling to try. When we think of animated features we think they all have to come with mouse ears or scream “to infinity and beyond” or some combination and facsimile thereof. The greatest animated features typically have neither of these.
Think timeless and lesser known, such as Heavy Metal, maybe not part two. You could go through the entire Ralph Bakshi collection as far as I’m concerned, as well. In order to find some of the best in animated films, you have to search. Because the ones that are delivered to you are simply not in the category.
The Triplets of Belleville were an evening variety show favorite when television was new. In the context of this movie’s surreal satirical plot, they are has-been vaudeville style harmonizers with at least one hit for which they will be forever remembered, even when foiling a a room full of midget gangsters’ evil plots – listen for the sing-a-long. They are also keenly aware of their status and almost nothing else. Our heroine Mme Sauza remembered the hit she listened to with her pudgy grandson clearly enough to have been taken in by them in their golden-senile frog-eating years. As an after thought, this is a subtle warning to our protagonist that the French are in danger. Grandmother had been grooming her little grandson to be a cyclist. We first meet him as a chubby little boy watching the sisters on TV with his grandmother. The animation style in the first few minutes is a clear compliment to the long-gone age. We next find him as a lean and dedicated cyclist training for the streets of some backwater French town with grandmother in tow. When the great French bicycle race, Circuit De France begins, the lead cyclists are plucked and without circumstance, from the race and stolen away, rather exaggeratedly breathless, to the city of Belleville. Grandmother’s house chases the boxy villainous kidnapper and bodyguard clones across the sea, in a paddle boat, in an attempt to rescue her progeny who, along with two other cyclists, were kidnapped. The Tripletts happen upon the reliable woman and her locomotive obsessed dog, they are attracted to her by her ability to reproduce their tune on bent bike wheel spokes. They take in the weary traveler and her dog-who’s el-train envy and dream sequences are nuanced wonders which provide a wonderful and ironic grounding to the otherwise fantastic reality in this movie.
Although you can ascertain historical and emotional relevancy, when you’re not sure what’s happening, you’re still willing to keep watching and find out. The animation continually borders on the grotesque, while walking that fine line of absolute beauty.
So Much of what you see is hyperbole, and when you get used to it, you are longing for more exaggeration.