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"The Triplets of Belleville"

Directed by Sylvain Chomet.
Written by Sylvain Chomet.
Starring the voices of Betty Bonifassi, Lina Boudreault and Mari-Lou Gauthier.
Release Year:  2003 

Review Date:  2/5/04 

My mom came downstairs tonight to tell me that Janet Jackson might be banned from appearing at the Grammy Awards this year.  I have decided that the Jackson Wardrobe Malfunction of 2004 is the most overblown moment in the history of television, period.  Seriously, I saw more tit on “NYPD Blue” in its second season—EVERY WEEK—than the one-second semi-boob shot this past Sunday.  However, if you haven’t bought a TiVo by now, I fuckin’ DARE, I fuckin’ DOUBLE DARE you to tell me that TiVo isn’t worth owning.  Live TV rewind is quite simply the greatest invention ever, and the seven-second rewind button (also known as “My Own Personal Jesus”) is the greatest part of the greatest invention ever.  I wish I had it to watch that hilarious Charmin commercial over and over again...

HDTV or TiVo?  Are you kidding?  TiVo for liiiiiiiiiiife.  (However, a note from Dave Lee:  a HDTiVo box is due out by summer.  Yeah, I’m sweating too.)


The animation is beautiful, but the French film “The Triplets of Belleville” is just so slow at times, it struggles to keep your attention even if you showed up with a Mountain Dew.

Almost completely without dialogue, the film follows a man named Champion, raised by his grandmother, and takes us on a ride through abduction, the mob underworld, and a set of singing triplets as we span decades of time watching these people...well, that’s where it gets a little tricky.  See, we spend the first 20 minutes watching as Champion goes from being just a child to becoming a contender in the Tour de France, and then during the race itself, Champion is abducted by the Mafioso and some guy known as The Godfather.  Champion’s grandmother, along with the family mutt, goes after her abducted grandson, who is taken to Belleville and put into what I can only describe as cyclist slavery.  Some months pass, and while the grandmother looks for her grandson, she meets the triplets, who are singing stars in Belleville even in their advanced age...and, the triplets help the grandmother track down Champion and try to break him out of the clutches of the mob.

I just re-read that paragraph and now I am realizing just how ridiculously stupid that all sounds.  Well, that’s exactly the problem with “The Triplets of Belleville”:  it just doesn’t make any sense!  The animation of the film is exquisite, though; I love the way each of these characters—and the random Frenchies that are strolling through frames of the film—is drawn, some bigger than life, others with nose and teeth so deliciously French you can almost imagine being there.  The music for the film is strong, with the main theme song sung by the triplets being truly spectacular (I believe this song is up for the Best Song Oscar in a few weeks).  Not having any dialogue is not that out of the ordinary, but with no score accompanying some of the earlier scenes, sleepy time will be imminent for those coming into the film without their afternoon nap.

The film’s ridiculous final half hour killed the momentum built up by a patient set of storytelling in the first 60 minutes.  By the time the triplets started throwing grenades at the mobsters—oh, yeah, they just carry them in their pantyhose; who didn’t do THAT back in the day?—I sold all of my investments in “The Triplets of Belleville” and just sat back for the ride home.  It’s like the film was made for adults in the first hour, and then director Sylvain Chomet thought

“Oh, wait...there will probably be kids in the audience...they’ll love watching a silly car chase to end the movie!”

and this backfires horrifically.  Chomet also throws in about a dozen scenes where the mutt barks at passing trains; I can’t tell you how tiresome this gets by the time we cross the halfway point of the movie.

The animation, and the big-screen experience, is why this one barely inches over the Rental line into Matinee territory.  Otherwise, this was a very average film.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09