Film Review: The Painting

Dreary animated civics lesson with even drearier imagery.

Nothing less than a plea for universal tolerance, literally regardless of skin tone, Jean-François Laguionie's The Painting is a heavily allegorical piece featuring the figures seen in a big, unfinished painting. They fall into three categories: the Alldunns are the happily finished creations, resplendent with color and shading; the Halfies lack total coloring; while the Sketchies are mere black-and-white outlines and therefore the untouchably lowliest of the low. They are all waiting—not for Godot—but for “The Artist” to come and complete the work, but in the meantime the Alldunns viciously lord it over the others, with exclusion and extreme prejudice.

A Romeo and Juliet-like couple, Halfie Claire and Alldunn Ramo, must keep their love a secret in this intolerant world. When Claire is kidnapped by the evil, campy overlord of the Allduns, Ramo joins her friend Lola and a querulously resentful Sketchie (for supposed comic relief) on a search for The Artist so he can put things to right.

For an animated feature whose basic theme is painterly, the film ironically suffers from dire visual impoverishment. The subject really called for the rich, hand-drawn and painted glories of a now-forever past era of cartoons, and the ultra-bland computer-generated images we see, although they at times suggest the work of Marie Laurencin, are singularly unappealing. The premise, as well, is more than a bit of a drag, with its civics-minded piety.

There are numerous attempts throughout at sophistication, like a voluptuous nude mouthing words of unbridled sensuality, but these feel heavy-handed. The climax, when spunky little Lola (who’s spunky in an oh-so-clichéd African-American movie way) encounters a live-action actor playing The Artist, falls decidedly flat, due to the uninspired, meant-to-be-uplifting words uttered as well as the woefully uninspired imagery.