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In a world created by the human hand, there’s a hierarchy. The pretty — “All Done”– are polished and privileged, destined to spend their days at a grand ball, gorgeously detailed and attired. The unfinished, “halfies” and “sketches” are forever outcast — on the outside looking in.
Sounds a bit like the video game universe of “Wreck-It Ralph.” But no, this is the inventive and decidedly UN Disney world of “The Painting,” an animated French-Belgian fantasy from 2011 only now making its way to the U.S.
Painted figures come to life and set out on a quest to find their creator, “The Painter.” They want to know why he stopped, why he never finished some of them. They want him to set their world right.
In playfully designed and colored computer-generated animation, Picasso-like figures and minimalist sketches bicker over the class divide between “all dones” and “halfies.” The all-dones have enslaved the “lower orders,” and banished them from their chateau and their part.
“There is no shame in being superior, my friends.”
It takes a halfie/all-done romance to set this quest in motion, and it will take a Sketch to complete the team, scrambling to escape their painting, crawling up into others of varying styles, mixing it up with soldiers, nudes and the entire color palette of a “God” who plainly was inspired by the long, shape-shifting career of Picasso, a figure as cryptic and who works in “mysterious ways,” much like any other deity.
Director Jean-Francois Laguionie and co-writer Anik Le Ray have a lot of fun with this God analogy.
“The Painter is going to come back! If the Painter could see us now!”
Colors and shapes morph and evolve on the screen, and the quest of Ramo, Lola and Quill takes us through a history of modern art as they seek the never-present “Painter,” who may never return, who may even be destroying works that he’s not happy with.
It’s a fanciful conceit and a well-animated parable about prejudice, standards of beauty and the shifting sands of the painters’ art. And “The Painting” is another reminder that much of the most fanciful animation to come along these days doesn’t come from the people who made “Wreck-It Ralph.” It comes from Europe.
MPAA Rating: unrated
Credits: Directed by Jean-Francois Laguionie, written by Anik Le Ray and Jean-Francois Laguionie. A Gkids release.
Running time: 1:16