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With: (voices) Kamali Minter, Michael Sinterniklass, Eden Riegel, Marc Thompson, Vinnie Penna, Colin Depaula, Spike Spencer, Christopher Kromer, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn
Written by: Jean-Francois Laguionie, Anik Leray
Directed by: Jean-Fran¨ois Laguionie
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 76
Date: 05/24/2013

The Painting (2013)

3 Stars (out of 4)

True Colors

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Directed by Jean-Francois Laguionie and made in France, The Painting is a sophisticated, imaginative animated film. Not that American animated films are bad -- we're in the middle of a kind of renaissance -- but they assume that children have short attention spans and can't sit still for anything that doesn't move quickly. The Painting, which was dubbed into English for its U.S. release, takes its time in setting up an incredible world in which the figures of paintings can not only move, but also yearn for things.

In one particular painting of a kingdom, several figures are finished and are known as the "Alldunns." They run things, occupy the big castle, hold fancy parties. Not invited are the "Halfies," figures that are almost, but not quite finished. And especially despised are the "Sketchies," or figures that are little more than rough charcoal sketches without any color. In this story, a Alldunn, Ramo loves a halfie, Claire, which causes a commotion. Worse, a Sketchie named Quill has snuck into the palace, resulting in the death of his young friend. Ramo and Quill, along with Ramo's "Halfie" friend Lola, hit the road to try to find the painter and ask him why he has not yet returned to finish his work.

This journey leads them into a field of "Death Flowers," of which all the figures are afraid. But our intrepid heroes make it through, to the edge of the painting itself. They find they can leave the frame and enter the painter's actual studio. They can even enter other paintings.

The movie essentially has two obvious messages up its sleeve. One is that humans -- even painted ones -- are quick to judge others and strip away the power of others to make themselves feel stronger. (It reminded me of the Dr. Suess story "The Sneetches.") The second is that, even if "God" exists and actually created us, we have the power to "finish" ourselves, or do whatever we want. These are interesting ideas, even if they're crammed into a rather short running time. And the characters, who should be the buffers for these heavy themes, are more sympathetic than they are strong.

But there's no denying that the animation is breathtaking, and that the quest to find the source of it all is endlessly fascinating. With all this beauty and imagination, the movie tends to sweep us up and carry us away. The use of colors is at first deliberate, and then grows more and more open-ended, and carefree. It's truly exciting.

The Painting is indeed meant as a children's film, and the more adventurous children out there should be encouraged to see it. However, parents should know that these themes are fairly intense, including things like death and a portrait of a naked woman. But these things are seamlessly incorporated into a special movie.

Cinedigm released a two-disc combo set with both DVD and a Blu-ray discs. The picture and sound quality are truly superb, absolutely dazzling. Viewers can choose between English-dubbed and French-language tracks with optional English subtitles. There's a 30-minute making-of documentary, a 10-minute slideshow of sketches, and trailers for this and other, similar animated movies from Cinedigm.

Best Buy Co, Inc.