The Triplets of Belleville (2003) (PG-13)

Exaggeration, style, and silent communication are all key when you're watching "The Triplets of Belleville". It's a film that doesn't utilize voice acting, in fact the amount that characters talk is very minimal; yet this proves again that dialogue isn't everything with story telling and French director Slyvain Chomet brings the world a very original and totally wacky sentimental quest of reunion.
Starting out in a cheesy black and white, the film manages to bounce around for a few minutes before cementing its style and showing the viewer how the story will be told. There is hyperbole to the animation of the characters. They are caricatures, but lovable ones at that.
We are shown the story of a woman who is raising her demure and silent grandson. She is trying to make him cheerful, but he seems to be stuck in melancholy. She buys him a dog which he names Bruno; but it doesn't help him get a hobby. One day, she discovers his scrapbook and sees how he was interested in cycling, so she buys him a tricycle and the rest is history.
Years later, as their small town in France has started to become modernized, the grandmother is still raising her grandson, and she's helping him train for the Tour de France. It should be noted that except for the title characters, most everyone in the film remains nameless.
The boy has massive legs and a tiny torso, exaggerating the physique of a cyclist.
But this grandmother is a beast. She does everything. She has a special shoe because one leg is shorter than the other, but that doesn't stop her from being ingenious, determined, plucky, and virtually unstoppable.
Providing the best life the boy can have, this grandmother takes the child and lets him do what he loves.
But nothing is that simple.
While biking the Tour de France, sinister, box-like henchmen kidnap the boy and the grandmother is left trying to track him down.
There is no real law to "The Triplets of Belleville". You can't nail down something'll just evade you. When you think it's about realism, a dog is used for a car tire and happily survives the ordeal. When you think that the film is a comedy, it gets really dark, really quickly. When you think it's surrealism, the sentimentality hits you hard.
Much like its drawing style, "The Triplets of Belleville" is a film that samples the best of everything. It may be a little hard to sink your teeth into the style of the movie; but that's half the fun.
The little moments make the film, the way that Chomet lets scenes stretch out. We watch the dog more than any other character in the movie, and she's certainly the most vocal character. Every time the train passes by, Bruno will climb the stairs and howl as it passes by.
Perhaps the best use of the exaggerated style is the way a high-class waiter is drawn as a flexible, slimy suck-up.
"The Triplets of Belleville" has an enormous amount of charm. It's likable when it shouldn't be and though it isn't the best movie ever, it's certainly worth seeing.

Score: ★★★½

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