A Gallic semi-“Dangerous Minds” in which well-bred teacher Gerard Depardieu finds himself saddled with the worst class in a notorious high school, “The Best Job in the World” is skillful but formulaic filmmaking. A sort of “To Monsieur With Love,” pic is a solid hit with local auds and should have some success traveling to territories where Depardieu is a draw.
Scripter-helmer Gerard Lauzier intertwines comedy and social issues, placing his story squarely in the tradition of the disadvantaged-youths-awakened-to-the-joys-of-learning-by-devoted-teacher genre parodied in “High School High.”
After a clever opener in which Laurent (Depardieu) gives his wife and fellow teacher, Helene (Michelle Laroque), excellent grounds for divorce, she is re-assigned from their pristine provincial town to Paris. Laurent asks to be posted to the Paris area so as to be closer to his two children, and lands at a troubled establishment in the immigrant-heavy ‘burbs beyond the capital.
His new charges are a far cry from the preppy youths he’s used to. To make matters worse, the only available housing is in the projects. While the ex-wife he still covets sets up spacious house in an elegant quarter, Laurent discovers the joys of stolen tires, nonstop noise and a sinister neighbor (Daniel Prevost) who keeps killer dogs and a weapons arsenal.
Gang pressure, extortion, theft, racism, Islamic fundamentalism and sexual opportunism are all worked into the script, which evolves in neat, entertaining segments. Laurent wins the respect of his students and makes a difference in their lives, but not before he’s been waylaid by gossip, innuendo, lies and physical violence.
Depardieu is low-key and effective as the instructor who learns about the real challenges of teaching, and Souad Amidou is well cast as potential love interest Radia. Versatile comedienne Laroque once again puts an enjoyable spin on the difficulties of being a modern woman. Young Prisca Songo is adorable as thetoken gifted child in a classroom of presumed losers.
A running joke based on the song “Happy Birthday to You” is amusing, as is the staff conspiracy to spare the principal (Guy Marchand) and his second-in-command (Ticky Holgado) from the sort of news that will push them over the edge. Laurent’s efforts to woo Radia while simultaneously re-wooing Helene add some adult-oriented farce to a family-style endeavor.
The humor runs aground only once, when a multiple-car crackup is played for laughs. Tech aspects are pro.