Based on its performance at the box office, everybody would appear to be interested in Finding Nemo these days. But there's another feature-length cartoon making the rounds that uses separation anxiety as a premise. And although I can pretty much guarantee it won't win an Oscar, maybe it should. (It is nominated.) The Triplets of Belleville is one of those movies that are so idiosyncratically imaginative you both wonder where they're going and are willing to follow them anywhere. Drawing on such varied sources as Max Fleischer and Jacques Tati, writer-director Sylvain Chomet, who's Canadian by way of France, has brought a shabby-genteel surreality to this tale about a grandmother who'll do whatever it takes to retrieve her kidnapped grandson. When he's abducted by the Mafia while competing in the Tour de France, she springs into action, crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a paddle-boat with the family dog.
At least I think it's the Atlantic Ocean; the geography's a little slippery. Belleville, where Madame Souza disembarks, looks like Manhattan if Manhattan were the capital of Czechoslovakia. And Belleville's residents are morbidly obese, which may be Chomet's comment on our runaway eating habits. Franco/American critiques aside, The Triplets of Belleville wants nothing less than to blow our minds a little bit. Which is why the titular triplets, ancient music-hall broads whom Madame Souza latches on to, eat nothing but frogs, which they acquire by dropping a stick of dynamite in a pond. Frogs? Maybe we shouldn't set that Franco/American critique aside. There's more than meets the eye in this wonderfully weird movie, but you can watch it several times and still not take in everything that meets the eye.