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Triplets of Belleville, The  (2003)


Director: Sylvain Chomet

Rating: PG-13

Distributor: Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment

Release Date: May 4, 2004
Review posted: May 17, 2004

Spoilers: Minor


Reviewed by Dennis Landmann




Kidnapped by mysterious square-shouldered henchmen, a Tour de France cyclist named Champion is spirited across the ocean to the teeming metropolis of Belleville. His grandmother and faithful dog follow his trail and are taken in by a trio of eccentric jazz-era divas. The motley sleuths follow the clues to an underground betting parlor and now the chase is on.




It's funny, I didn't think I'd like this film. I won't say I avoided The Triplets of Belleville when it was in theaters, I think I just didn't care to see it. Perhaps I didn't trust or much less care for all the hype from many of the the nation's critics surrounding the film. Plus, I didn't even request the DVD for review, but it was sent to me anyway. And for that I'm thankful, because I actually quite like the film.


The animation tends to be uncharacteristic in many spots, but as the film moves along the style in which some characters are portrayed, specifically the adult Champion and the mafia, tells a different story from what happens in the script. That is, the animation likes to exaggerate appearance in the form of making a statement. At first Champion is young and puffy with a big face, but when he becomes a professional cyclist his leg muscles are highly enlarged, his stomach is as thin as spaghetti, and his face is very skinny. I'm not sure what the message means to say about sports or athletes, but that's open to discussion and point of view.


Moreover, the two mafia guys have a square-like appearance and look like conjoined twins, and the mafia boss seems to exist inside them. Perhaps this comments on the way they exist, the boss is closely guarded at all times and he doesn't leave anywhere without bodyguards. Well, figure that out for yourself. There are other styles to the animation where director Sylvain Chomet could be meaning to say something. The overall style of the animation is pretty unique and works well for the film.


Despite moving slowly for the first hour or so, The Triplets of Belleville tells an enchanting and neat story about a mother who crosses an ocean to rescue her son from a kidnapping. Probably the most interesting aspect about the film are the unique characters. Madame Souza is a lovely character portrayed very realistically, and she's got tics like everyone. But most importantly is the way she goes about things, a great indication would be the dinner scene with Champion eating enough off his plate, or her renting a paddle boat to follow the kidnappers. The other characters, including the triplets, are fun to watch, yet I didn't know frogs are edible.


Another thing very good about this film is the sense of humor that is achieved simply by way of character actions. When Madame Souza arrives at the port of Belleville, a large city in the veins of Paris and New York, we see her dog Bruno towing the paddle boat. Now that was a funny sight. Bruno himself is kind of a funny character, but what's really appealing is the realism with which the director portrays him. There's also a little bit of cool action late in the film involving the mafia chasing down Madame Souza, the triplets, and Champion.


Also, there is hardly any dialogue in the film except for a TV broadcast in French, or the very beginning and ending of the film. The film doesn't really need it because the script tells the story with action and reaction that says more than anything else, it's quite unique I think. Music is also very important to the film, and the score sounds really nice. I guess the only negative thing about The Triplets of Belleville is that it moves a little slow, and that it's not a film for the everyday viewer.




Columbia presents The Triplets of Belleville in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. I read the original presentation was 1.66:1 but it appears the image has been cropped a bit on the top and bottom to make 1.78 the presentation. Video quality is pretty nice without any major faults. Colors are bright and well-saturated. Definition is quite good. Compression artifacts do not appear. Solid quality overall. Optional subtitles include English and Spanish.




Columbia presents The Triplets of Belleville in English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound. The film relies heavily on sound effects since there is almost zero dialogue, and the rear speakers effectively reinforce the sound effects. A pretty good presentation. A Spanish 5.1 Dolby dub is also available.




Director Sylvain Chomet discusses and takes the viewer through various topics in the 15-minute Making of The Triplets of Belleville. It's a good featurette with some neat insight. Select Scene Commentaries are provided for three scenes: the opening sequence, the Triplets' restaurant performance, and the dinner scene with Champion, Madame Souza, and Bruno the dog. The track is in French but English subtitles reveal good insight into topics such as mood and sound effects. The Cartoon According to Director Sylvain Chomet is five minutes worth of the filmmaker describing the process of animation in three steps; drawing, animation, and inspiration. There's also the "Belleville Rendez-Vous" music video as well as the theatrical trailer.


The DVD offers are nice set of extras overall for an animated film that didn't break any records but did well in critics circles.

The 84-minute feature is organized into twenty-eight chapters. The disc come in an Amaray keepcase with a paper insert listing scene selections.




The Triplets of Belleville is an original and unique animated film. I didn't think I'd like it, but it's really worth watching for its characters, animation, and humor. However, it's not really a film for everyone, but I highly recommend it. The DVD is pretty good with some nice extras. A recommended rental for most folks, but a purchase is worth it as well.




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