There's a cat burglar in Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol's A Cat in Paris, a gorgeously rendered animated feature that was one of the five Academy Award nominees at this year's Oscars.

There is also a cat, Dino, who leads a double life: By day, he curls up, purring, alongside little Zoe, who lives with her mother (the voice of Marcia Gay Harden) in a sun-speckled apartment. But when darkness falls, the frisky feline leaps from the window, dances across a long wall, and heads for the attic garret of Nico (Steve Blum), an acrobatic thief. Together, the cat and the cat burglar make off with cash, jewels, art.

The animators use color and line exquisitely - the humans have sharp, angular features and tiny little feet, the rooftops and street scenes have a wonderful, geometric scope - and the story is engaging and exciting, a caper that appeals to both children and adults. Zoe, quiet and watchful, is still reeling from the loss of her father, a police detective killed by the sinister Costa. Dino returns from his nightly rounds, bringing gifts to cheer her up - freshly caught lizards, or, um, a diamond bracelet. Now where did he get that?

Zoe's mother, Jeanne, is also on the Paris police force, and she has put one of her men on the case of a spate of recent burglaries. (Jeanne has been plagued by nightmares, in which Costa, her husband's murderer, is a menacing, many-tentacled beast, painted a devilish red.)

When Zoe follows Dino out of the window one night to see where he goes, the girl gets caught up in a dangerous game of cops and robbers. Inevitably, the paths of Nico, Costa and his crew, and Jeanne and her deputies intersect.

Chases and abductions, a visit to the zoo, and a climactic face-off amid the gargoyles and towering spires of the cathedral of Notre Dame ensue. A Cat in Paris is thrilling, and a thrilling example of traditional ink and paint cartooning.EndText

Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at www.philly.com/onmovies.