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Little Sebastian lives with his adopted grandfather in the Alps on the border with Switzerland. He does not go to school and doesn’t have friends. One day he meets a mountain dog, who he calls Belle. Belle is accused of many crimes and even though others call her a monster, it is Belle who needs protection.
Meanwhile the year is 1943 and the Nazi troops step into the village, looking for the men who help Jewish refugees to escape France through the alps into Switzerland. When things get tough, it is up to the little boy and his giant dog-friend to save everyone.
The original book written in early sixties by French author Cecile Aubry, span a very successful French TV and Japanese animation series. In this modern interpretation, by placing the settings during the second world war, the light-hearted children’s story is given a serious undertone, with parallels between the cruelty of war and the cruelty of humans to animals.
With the opening credits, when Sebastian and his adopted grandfather Cesar balance on the cliff edge of to save a little deer cub the movie gives us the taste of what’s to come - the big scale adventure in the mountains full of wild life.
Little Felix Bossuet is invigorating as Sebastian, who is portrayed as kind-hearted, but stubborn and uncontrolled. While all boy’s intentions are good, he constantly puts himself into dangerous situations which every parent would find hair rising.
The supporting cast does the great job, also the love triangle between Sebastian’s sister Angeline, young rebellious doctor and a Nazi commander is underdeveloped and inconclusive. Nazis, as always, make perfect villains and give the story a sense of a real danger, taking away a little bit of the fairy tale quality of the film.
The new version of BELLE AND SEBASTIAN is trying to serve too many masters. While grown ups may find it a little naïve, and parts of it even corny, there are too many boring bits for modern children, who would sacrifice the real mountain landscapes in favour of computer game CGI any time. Bring in a few perils and near escapes a la Indiana Jones or The Hobbit, and that would make BELLE AND SEBASTIAN a perfect adventure film! As it is, the movie has turned out to be a stunningly shot, but predictable adventure, targeted to satisfy the whole family, but only partially achieving this goal.