Ever wonder where your cat goes when you let him out? If he's as versatile as Dino, the title character of "A Cat in Paris," he may be moonlighting as a burglar's assistant, scampering across the rooftops of a storybook Paris and hanging out with a questionable character like Nico (Steve Blum), the nimble second-story man whose string of jewel thefts is causing headaches for the Parisian police department.
The gendarmes, by the way, are already preoccupied with the antics of crime boss Victor Costa (JB Blanc), who murdered the husband of police superintendent Jeanne, who is the mother of young Zoe (Lauren Weintraub), who lost her voice when she lost her father, and thinks she owns Dino -- and does, when he isn't off helping Nico relieve rich French people of their gems.
Yes, it's a small circle that populates "Cat," and an enchanted Paris they all live in. What directors Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol do with their hand-drawn and vaguely naive style is cast as a fairy tale a story that's really rather serious -- there's been a murder after all; a woman has lost her husband and her daughter's gone mute. So beneath the abundance of wit and physical humor -- the chase scene at Notre Dame is positively giddy -- is a story with some gravity. Even if defying gravity is also what its characters do best.
Felicoli and Gagnol are pranksters -- their referencing of American movies like "Reservoir Dogs" and "Night of the Hunter" might be called puckish. But they're in total control of "A Cat in Paris" (which was nominated for an Oscar this year), evidenced by their sure-handed balance of the fantastical and the emotionally genuine. Both Zoe and Nico are nothing short of lovable. Dino? He deserves a can of tuna.
PLOT A jewel thief and an unusual little girl have a cat in common, who brings them together in a fight against the Parisian underworld. RATING PG (some scary, sad scenes)
PLAYING AT Sag Harbor Cinema
BOTTOM LINE An animated delight, and certainly not just for kids