Sunday, March 25, 2018

DVDebut for a funny, French family movie: Laurent Tirard's NICHOLAS ON HOLIDAY

There's a lot to like about the smartly-made, 2014 French family comedy, NICHOLAS ON HOLIDAY (Les vacances du petit Nicolas) co-adapted -- from the children's book series by René Goscinny and Jean-Jacques Sempé -- and directed by Laurent Tirard. Set back in the 1960s and featuring a riot of colorful and nostalgic cars, clothes and set designs, the movie offers plenty of fun and frolic for the kids and eye-candy of all sorts for the adults who are likely to be watching with them.

From the opening credits that feature those used-to-be-popular post cards with resort town views (that come alive here in odd and funny ways) to the choice performances that M. Tirard (shown at right) draws from his excellent cast, the movie is full of energy, delight, and just enough of that typical French perversity to make it stand apart from any American film of this type. (Instead of mere fart jokes, we get a quite literal shower of shit.) Further, the movie explores themes such as the male gaze and how easily it strays, the female need for control via "love," and a wealth of oddball habits that distinguish one child from another.

The movie begins with the end of the school year and summer vacation in view, and from there it travels through the annual argument between mom (Valérie Lemercier, above, center right) and dad (Kad Merad, above, right) regarding mountain or seaside vacation, and finally to whether grandma (Dominique Lavanant, above, left) is to be allowed to join the family holiday.

In the role of young Nicolas, Mathéo Boisselier (above) is about as pert and adorable a young actor as you could want. Nicolas narrates the film and it is often from his point-of-view that we see and understand things. That POV is pretty funny, childlike and quite smart in its own way.

Tirard makes certain that his film is full of near-constant charming little touches that will draw out a smile, if not occasionally an outright guffaw. While some of the humor (the intentional change-of-plumbing-pipe incident and the kid who literally eats anything and everything) is pretty perverse, it is also pretty funny.

The supporting cast is made up of a nice array of ages and types, with Belgian actor Bouli Lanners (at left, two photos up) particularly effective as an old schoolmate of Nicolas' dad. M. Marad is properly glum and goofy, Ms. Lavanant's granny is also fine as the mother-in-law from hell, and Ms Lemercier gets her chance to shine in a scene involving too much champagne and a very funny dance number (below).

A kids' adventure that's also about adults having their own adventures, the movie culminates in a funny costume party, a pair of missing children, a fortress/castle dotted with WWII mines and other explosives, and mistaken identities involving gorilla suits.

Along  the way our Nicolas becomes "involved" with the girl next door (or maybe across the street), played by Chann Aglat (above, left, in one of our hero's wedding fantasies) and then with a girl named Isabelle (Erja Maltier, below, right), who begins as a member of some kind of French Adams Family before morphing into a very cute and loving kid.

All in all, Nicholas on Holiday ends up a sweet, funny and smart little movie. Kids'll love it -- if, that is, they can either speak French or read English subtitles, while adults who go along for the ride may be surprised at how easily digestible all this proves to be.

From Distrib Films US and distributed on DVD by Icarus Films Home Video, in French with English subtitles and running 97 minutes, Nicholas on Holiday hits the street this coming Tuesday, March 27 -- for purchase and/or (one hopes) rental.

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