When her grandson is kidnapped by the French mafia while competing in the Tour de France, Madame Souza and her beloved pooch Bruno team up with the Belleville Sisters – an aged song-and-dance team from the days of Fred Astaire – to rescue him.
Old Madame Souza lives in a tall, dilapidated building near the railway line with her train-hating dog, Bruno. She adopts Champion, her grandson. When she discovers Champion is obsessed with cycling, she buys him a bike. Years pass, and the railway line now crosses a viaduct close to the house, infuriating Bruno even more. Champion has entered the Tour de France, and Madame Souza and Bruno form his support team; when he's kidnapped by mafia types and transported across the Atlantic to the city of Belleville, Madame Souza and Bruno rent a pedal-boat and follow them to the New World.
This dazzlingly original animated feature from France is the work of comic-book artist turned filmmaker Sylvain Chomet. Steeped in nostalgia, and filled with wonderfully bizarre characters, the film is more than just an exercise in style; it's a beautifully handled comparison between French and North American values. Belleville - which seems to combine New York and Montreal - is inhabited by overweight capitalists - even the Statue of Liberty is fat - but the Triplets, a veteran vaudeville team, show their origins by consuming nothing but frogs! The animation, from the deliberately scratchy black and white pastiche of early 30s Disney and Max Fleischer that begins the film, is superb. This is an animated film for adults, and though the humour is a trifle melancholy, the influences, including Jacques Tati himself, provide plenty of laughs and delights.