This impressively inventive French animated feature from comic-book artist Sylvain Chomet is far too entertaining to be enjoyed only by children. It may clock in at a crisp 80 minutes, yet a single viewing can barely do justice to this richly detailed and often playfully macabre adventure.
Its plot involves the diminutive, club-footed Madame Souza preparing her orphaned grandson, Champion, to be a world-beating cyclist by personally supervising his arduous training regime.
During the mountain stage of the Tour de France, Champion is kidnapped by black-suited men from the French mafia and whisked across the Atlantic to the city of Belleville. (Belleville is an amalgam of New York, Quebec and Montreal, and is stunningly designed by art director Evgeni Tomov.)
It's up to granny and Champion's beloved dog Bruno to perform a daring rescue, although they can rely on assistance from the elderly Belleville Sisters, a song-and-dance trio who once performed with Fred Astaire...
The hand-drawn animation gives the primarily dialogue-free Belleville Rendez-Vous a deliberately antiquated visual style, and Chomet relishes caricaturing the body shapes of his characters - whether it's the overly muscular thighs and protuberant nose of Champion, or the grotesquely obese residents of Belleville.
Sending up the eating habits of North Americans (whose Statue of Liberty brandishes a hamburger) as well as the French predilection for frog-related dishes, the director manages to pay homage to such cultural icons as the guitarist Django Reinhardt and French comic Jacques Tati. The latter, one feels, would have approved of the resourceful way a vacuum cleaner is used to make music.
There's so much to relish here: Bruno's black and white dream sequences, the unconventional use of hand grenades to catch frogs, and particularly the operatic ocean crossing on a pedalo. What's French for don't miss?