DVDs and Blu-rays: The Barrens and A Cat in Paris
Stephen Moyer and Mia Kirshner star in The Barrens; Darren Lynn Bousman writes, directs and produces.
Let's just say Richard Vineyard, the character at the center of The Barrens, isn't all that well-balanced. Or maybe he is and it's the rest of the characters that are off-kilter. Vineyard (played by True Blood's Stephen Moyer) takes his family on a camping trip into some woods where, legend has it, the devil lives. (This-Guy-Is-a-Really-Bad-Parent hint No. 1: Vineyard knows this before he plans the family's trip into the wilderness.) Once they get there, strange things start happening, mostly to Vineyard, who completely loses his shit. (This-Guy-Is-a-Really-Bad-Parent hint No. 2: It's never a good thing when your father is pointing a shotgun and saying, "I never meant to hurt you.")
Moyer does a good job as the maniacal dad, and screenwriter/director Darren Lynn Bousman throws in enough gore and guts to keep things interesting between Vineyard's melt-down sessions. (Bousman is the man behind three of the installments in the Saw film series.) Mia Kirshner keeps her footing as Mrs. Vineyard; yes, her husband is paranoid and hallucinating, and yes, her family is lost in some seriously creepy woods that are supposedly home to the devil, but she's got her two kids to think about, so she has to keep it together.
Jacques-Rémy Girerd and Alain Gagnol write; Jean-Loup Felicioli and Gagnol direct.
A Cat in Paris was nominated for a 2012 Academy Award in the Best Animated Feature category. There, we got that out of the way (getting an Academy Award nomination is sort of like getting a Pulitzer Prize; from then on, it will always be the first sentence in any article ever written about you). The film is just over an hour long, and supposedly family-friendly (there's a dog that gets knocked around a bit, which we think might upset young kids -- yes, he's a cartoon dog, but hey, kids still care).
It's a bit of a convoluted plot: Zoe is a seven-year-old girl, Dino is her cat. Well, actually, he's only her cat during the day. At night, Dino slips off with his other owner, Nico, a cat burglar who leaps across rooftops in Paris stealing jewelry and mounds of cash. Zoe's mom, Jeanne, is a police commissioner, and her main target is a criminal named Victor Costa, the man who killed Zoe's dad. When Zoe gets kidnapped by Costa, Dino and Nico come to her rescue. But Nico's a burglar and Jeanne's a cop, and things are on track for a conflict between the two.
A Cat in Paris is lovely. It's drawn with lots of angles and in muted tones. Zoe, who's mute from mourning her dad, manages to convey her emotions even without words. And Dino and Nico are wonderfully stylish, cool and hip. Parents might want to have a "We don't treat dogs that way in real life..." talk with little ones, but other than that, A Cat is a delightful family film.