Since animated films have become box office blockbusters, audiences have become used to big stories, A-list voice talent, one-liners and sometimes campy sight gags. Every so often, it’s nice to remember that animation can also be something fun to just look at. This latest reminder comes courtesy of A Cat in Paris, the 2010 Oscar-nominated French film that has been dubbed into English and re-released for American audiences.

Dino is a cat who is using two of his nine lives at the same time. During the day, he’s the mild-mannered pet of Zoe – the young daughter of Paris’ police commissioner. By night, he’s the accomplice of Nico, a burglar who uses the Parisian rooftops as his foot paths. Zoe’s father was murdered by a two-bit gangster and as a result, the girl refuses to speak. Meanwhile, her mother has been driven to distraction trying to solve her husband’s killing.

One evening while sneaking out to follow Dino on his nightly rounds, Zoe discovers the hoods who killed her father. After interrupting their plot to steal a rare African statue, the girl is kidnapped, leaving Dino and Nico to rescue her and leading to a climactic showdown atop Notre Dame cathedral.

The characters themselves are mostly retreads of types we’ve seen repeatedly: the overworked, single mother; the noble crook and the low-rent mob boss with his cadre of bumbling thugs. Instead, the movie excels with its storytelling. It’s a Hitchcockian film noir crime caper, the type of movie Dashiell Hammett would write if he worked for an animation studio.

Visually, it’s like a child’s storybook come to life. The artists at Folimage have created characters reminiscent of the late Maurice Sendak. And those characters are given the entire city of Paris in which to rumpus. Apart from the obligatory panoramic shot to confirm that we are indeed in the City of Light, Paris is seen much more intimately, making it more of a supporting actor than a scene stealer. Compare that to movies that constantly remind you where you are by squeezing as many recognizable big city landmarks as possible.

The most engaging part of the movie is the relationship between Dino and Nico. As both accompaniment and accomplice, the cat is a matched pair with the cat burglar – all without a sarcastic one-liner or t-shirt ready catch phrase. The duo flow like water over and through the Paris housetops, animated unlike anything else in the film.

Perhaps spoiled by the animated epics from Pixar and Dreamworks, some younger viewers might not immediately be drawn in by a cat that doesn’t talk. Nor do you ever get a true feel for the voice actors behind the ink-and-paint, which is a shame with a talented cast that includes Marcia Gay Harden, Anjelica Huston and Matthew Modine. But with the whole movie wrapping up in a tidy 67 minutes, there isn’t much time to dwell on that.

In all, it’s a fitting addition to a growing animation library curated by international distributor GKIDS, alongside some of the best works from Nick Park and Hayao Miyazaki. Similar to those films, it’s hard to imagine A Cat in Paris replacing the Toy Story franchise in the DVD players of American households. But when you’ve returned from infinity and beyond, the rooftops of Paris could be a sight for families’ sore eyes.