'Miraculous: Ladybug & Cat Noir, The Movie' Review: Reluctant Singing French Superheroes
They swoop! They swoon!! They sing! They suffer from teenage angst! Only on Netflix.
Now Streaming: Placing #5 among Top 10 Kids Movies in the U.S. Today (Thursday, August 10, 2023), per Netflix, Miraculous: Ladybug & Cat Noir, The Movie sounded new and different, and not a sequel like nearly everything else in the Top 10 (Despicable Me 2, Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, Minions: The Rise of Gru, Sing 2) or a franchise starter (Despicable Me, The Boss Baby) or an enjoyable movie I'd seen before (The Bee Movie).
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As those in the know already know, however, Miraculous: Ladybug & Cat Noir, The Movie is, in fact, based on the television series Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir, created by Thomas Astruc and developed by Jeremy Zag, which debuted in 2015 and ran for 131 episodes in five seasons, all of which are now streaming on Netflix, as well as on Disney Plus, which was actually my first sighting of the title, though I never sampled the series. (If you live outside North America, you'll probably find the series on one streaming service or another.)
Coming to it fresh, Miraculous: Ladybug & Cat Noir, The Movie plays as a fun, spunky grab bag of action, teen romance, and super-powered characters who break into song to express their emotions. Marinette, whose parents own a bakery across the street from the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, is a normal, clumsy, socially-anxious teenager. Like her peers, she'll grow out of her clumsiness, of course, but she doesn't know that yet and it causes her to fret constantly.
On her first day in school, she bumps into Adrien, a quiet lad, in the library, and instantly crushes on him. Adrien barely notices her, not because of her, but because of him: he's still grieving the loss of his dear mother, while his wealthy fashion-designer father Gabiel has become ever more distant and wrapped up in his work.
Marinette is befriended by a classmate / aspiring journalist, Alya, as she nurses her crush on Adrien. Alya takes notice of Nino, Adrien's friend, and the four go to a fair in town, where their lives are changed forever, as Marinette and Adrien gain the ability to transform into super-powered creatures, calling themselves Ladybug and Cat Noir, respectively, in order to save the people of Paris from a powerful new threat.
The movie very quickly introduces its premise -- something about butterflies, and so forth -- but it sounded like nonsense to me, and did not prepare me at all for the characters bursting into song when the mood strikes them. This, in itself, distinguishes the movie from Marvel and DC movies, though its teen-romance elements fit more easily into the younger portion of the more widely-known superhero cinematic universes.
It probably helps that I was completely unfamiliar with the existing series. Even so, the movie strikes me as a fleet and endearing story of good and evil, with villains as misunderstood as the heroes. As a movie targeted at kids, it plays well for older viewers who are exhausted from tortured heroes and menacing marauders.
Sometimes, you just want to sing. And maybe save the world. [Netflix]