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Under the Radar DVD of the Week: 'A Monster in Paris'

Dennis King Published: April 15, 2013

This week, the oddest DVD to appear on release lists is:

“A Monster in Paris”

In the realm of 3-D, computer-generated animation, the big players such as Pixar, Disney and Dreamworks rule the box-office roost. But smaller, off-track studios are also doing notable if not high-profile and profit-driven work, and one of those low-key features from 2011, “A Monster in Paris,” is due out on DVD Tuesday.

This French production from writer-director Bibo Bergeron (maker of 2004’s “Shark Tale”) smartly demonstrates that big Hollywood machinery isn’t necessary to produce family animation that’s literate and charming on the storytelling level and lush and painterly in its visual aspects.

The modest little story possesses strong echoes of “Phantom of the Opera,” as well as a powerful affection for the silent cinema of early Hollywood (a la another fanciful French homage, “The Artist”), and its setting in the teeming streets of Paris, circa 1910, is lavish and lovely.

As floodwaters inundate the city, a monster is on the loose and several unlikely allies find themselves thrown together in a hunt for the misunderstood creature – a giant, mellow-voiced flea named Franc (with a singing voice provided by Julian Lennon).

The players include a Emile, shy movie projectionist; Raoul, a wacky inventor, Lucille, a big-hearted chanteuse at the Rare Bird Cabaret, and an irascible monkey, who band together to save Franc from the evil conniving of Paris’ ruthlessly ambitious police chief.

Vocal talent in the French-American cast includes Adam Goldberg, Bob Balaban, Danny Huston and Catherine O’Hara.

“A Monster in Paris” is rated PG (for action violence involving gunplay, and mild rude humor) and runs 87 minutes. It’s being released by Shout! Factory.

- Dennis King