Charming and frustrating in near equal amounts, A Monster in Paris is a likeable animated trifle that tries to find equilibrium between laughs, scares, and musical interludes. Think of it as a baby proof Phantom of the Opera mixed with bits of the Universal Monsters franchise and King Kong. It’s a shame that this brief description is more interesting than the actual film.
A Monster in Paris has a simple, engaging setup, and then never quite populates it with rich characters, memorable songs, or a narrative that requires a feature-length running time. This would have made one hell of strong, smart, wonderful short film. I mean, it’s about a gigantic flea that gets disguised as a human and winds up being the performing partner of a cabaret singer. That’s delightfully weird. That’s more than enough story to function as a setup, yet it often plays second-fiddle to the romantic anguish of a projectionist prone to dreaming and his best friend, a delivery boy.
That’s where A Monster in Paris frequently loses steam as it also provides ample space for a generic villain to wander in and deflate the emotional investment we may or may not have been building in these characters troubles. Frankly, I wanted to spend more time with the singing, guitar playing super-flea and far less with the human characters. Plenty of fascinating and unexplored terrain go by the wayside in favor of love’s labors lost and won. C’mon, give me more of our projectionist’s found footage monster discovery, more of the dream world of his, and far more of the monster skulking about Paris.
In fact, you’ll have a hard time remembering much of the human character’s journeys, but you’ll definitely remember the monster and the more adventurous sequences. Case in point, the opening sequence plays out like a film reel from 1910. Imagine if the entire movie had been animated in that gauzy, sepia-toned manner? Can’t say there’s been too many films like that just floating around. A Monster in Paris is cute, it’s fun, but it could have been so much more.