FILM REVIEW: A Monster in Paris (U)

A giant flea nurtures a passion for music in Bibo Bergeron’s computer-animated fable that teaches us to never judge a wingless, blood-sucking parasite by its spiny legs or hairy abdomen.

A Monster In Paris puts a colourful, Gallic spin on the classic fairytale of Beauty And The Beast, using the power of song to bring together two characters who are a world (and species) apart.

Bergeron demonstrates a light touch, providing some decent laughs and energetic set pieces despite a flimsy script that stretches the narrative and romantic subplots too thinly.

Themes of tolerance and compassion are loudly addressed so that young audiences will understand the true monsters here are the power-hungry men who feed off the fear and paranoia of the public.

“When people are frightened, they need protection, they need a saviour... in short, they need me,” snarls the film’s moustachioed villain as he plots the manipulation of voters for personal gain.

However, good must ultimately vanquish doubt and despair, set to a jaunty soundtrack of original music composed by Matthieu Chedid and sung by Sean Lennon and Vanessa Paradis.

The year is 1910 and Paris has been ravaged by floods, leading to the construction of rickety wooden bridges to allow the city’s denizens to traverse the bloated Seine.

Cinema projectionist Emile (Jay Harrington) agrees to help truck driver Raoul (Adam Goldberg) make a delivery to a gargantuan greenhouse owned by a scientist.

Raoul forces his way inside and begins fooling around with test tubes of strange liquid.

There is a massive explosion and the resulting cloud of gases causes a flea to mutate to hulking proportions.

The insect bounds across the city until it finds an unlikely ally and musical companion in cabaret chanteuse Lucille (Vanessa Paradis) at the L’Oiseau Rare nightclub.

Together, Lucille and the heavily disguised insect, who is christened Franc (Sean Lennon), become the talk of the French capital with their infectious renditions.

When bumbling police commissioner Maynott (Danny Huston), who hopes to win Lucille’s affections, discovers his rival is a monstrous insect, he decides to secure his re-election by slaying the beast.

“He may be a giant flea but he wouldn’t hurt a fly,” protests Lucille.

A Monster In Paris is an effervescent and entertaining confection that makes use of the 3D format in the action sequences, following Raoul’s truck as it careens through the capital’s boulevards.

Characters’ back stories are overlooked for the sake of expediency but a little more meat on some of their computer-generated bones would certainly help.

Maynott is a lacklustre villain who never seriously threatens the safety of his prey.

Vocal performances are solid and the film really sparks to life when Franc grabs a guitar to provide musical accompaniment for Lucille’s toe-tapping ditties.

The flea got Glee.

By Damon Smith


Released: January 27 (UK & Ireland), 89 mins