A Tour de France rider is kidnapped by gangsters, and his teensy grandmother and obese dog set out across the ocean from Paris to a Gallic fantasy of mid-century New York to rescue him. Along the way she enlists the aid of the titular triplets, former vaudeville dance hall singing stars who have aged into frog-eating, batty old hags.
A simple plot, with almost no dialogue and running less than 80 minutes, the charms of The Triplets of Belleville are in the details. French through and through, it's a refreshing take on animation for those who think that the US and Japan have all the bases covered.
That said, keeping an animated feature interesting is a challenge, and it almost always requires a strong story or memorable characters – two things sorely lacking in Triplets. After a while, the lackadaisical pacing and the uniformly grotesque characters wear thin, and there's an inescapable aloofness that keeps the film from being engaging.
I'm not saying every cartoon needs to be cute, but when something is this ugly to look at, that ugliness needs a good counterbalance. And Triplets is neither funny enough nor fast-paced enough to provide it. I will say, however, that there's plenty of creativity on display, the animation itself is flawless, and the backgrounds are rich and in their own way beautiful.