Watch out, Ratatouille!

What's great about animated movies is that fantastic imagery—perfectly odd, perfectly idiosyncratic—can be enough to make up for a nonriveting plot and/or dim writing. That doesn't quite happen in A Cat in Paris, the Oscar-nominated French movie by Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol.

The movie is about a cat, a cat burglar, a mobster, his minions, and a mother and her smart but mute daughter in the aftermath of the death of the father at the mobster's hands. It's noir with a female detective (the mom) who does tai chi in the break room. It's a romance, between the filmmakers and the city of Paris and between various pairs of characters. (It's all very innocent; you can take children, but not if menacing red octopus monsters with mobster faces, or the knowledge of deaths of fathers, will give them nightmares.) It's also a parkour movie, essentially. Which is fun.

The drawing is the best part: Every human has cat eyes and teeny feet, the better to hop rooftops with. And as could only happen in a French movie, the female adults are endowed with prominent sherbet scoops for breasts. (Speaking of Frenchisms, there's also something uncomfortably Quai Branly—that's Paris's museum of indigenous material from around the world—about the fact that the action hinges on the mobster's unexplained, obsessive pursuit of a priceless African sculpture with an oversize penis.)

The best scenes are imaginative takes on seeing in the dark: When the cat burglar dons the night-vision goggles that make his sight the same as his feline sidekick. Or when the lights go out and the drawings switch to all-white, like smoke or chalk.

But this is a genre movie, ultimately. Not one genre, but several—mixed but not stirred. The filmmakers never offer much to become invested in, so you never care much. Which is ultimately why A Cat in Paris shouldn't feel long at 65 minutes but drags. The takeaway: An Oscar nom and a French pedigree don't make this movie great. It's just okay. Comme ci, comme ça. recommended