Animated features are almost always aimed at children - with a handful of grownup jokes to keep adults from feeling completely forgotten.
"The Triplets of Belleville" breaks this mold, along with every other mold you can think of. Children may enjoy it, aside from the youngest, who might find it too weird for comfort. Its main audience is adults, though. And not just any adults, but those in the mood for venturesome fare that's both surreal and hilarious.
The main character is an elderly Frenchwoman named Madame Souza, who devotes her days to two projects. One is caring for Bruno, her sad sack of a dog. The other is caring for Champion, her equally sad sack of a grandson. She's convinced Champion has the makings of a Tour de France winner, and after years of monomaniacal training, he's ready to compete in the great bicycle race. Then things go wrong: Champion is kidnapped by mobsters, who trap him in an artificial race designed for gamblers, using a movie screen and stationary bikes. Determined to rescue him, Madame Souza and Bruno head for Belleville, a delirious version of what Paris and New York might look like when globalization makes them indistinguishable. She stays with the triplets, three eccentric old dames who earn their living in a nightclub where they make music with "instruments" like a vacuum cleaner and a refrigerator shelf.
Sounds peculiar? You bet. It's downright daft at times. But it's ingeniously crafted, marvelously drawn, and utterly unpredictable. It's also the modern equivalent of a silent movie, with music and sound effects but hardly a speck of dialogue. Take a chance on it. Whether you love it or not, you'll have to admit it's unlike anything you've seen before.
• Rated PG-13; contains vulgarity and violence.