Les Boys are back in town. The sequel to the top-grossing French-Canadian film of all time does not tamper with the magic formula that pulled in some C$6 million ($4 million) in Quebec a year ago, once again delivering plenty of down-home laughs, a few nifty on-ice match-ups and appearances by a host of the best-known film and TV stars in French Canada. It makes for a highly enjoyable slice of light entertainment, and, in contrast to the vast majority of sequels, “The Boys II” is in many ways a more satisfying, funnier piece than the first installment.
The pic opened on more than 80 screens across Quebec on Dec. 11, making it the most ambitious domestic launch ever in the French-Canadian province, and its success is all but guaranteed. But it doesn’t look to score anywhere near as well in interna-tional rinks, given that this sort of Quebecois humor rarely travels well.
The big change this time around is that Les Boys, the garage-league team at the center of the first picture, are on their way to France to take part in an international amateur hockey competition being held in the picturesque Alps town of Chamonix. The on-ice action plays an even less prominent role in the sequel, with helmer/co-writer Louis Saia focusing most of his attention on the comic foibles of these ordinary Montrealers who are more than a little perplexed by life on the other side of the Atlantic. Much comic hay is made of the cultural differences between the Quebecers and the French, and writers Saia, Rene Brisebois and Fran-cois Camirand deserve top marks for avoiding the obvious cliches in this department.
Love and romance are more front and center this time out, with tireless suburban Casanova Bob (Marc Messier) almost im-mediately snaring a local gal (Cecile Auclert) and coach Stan (Remy Girard) taking up with a French bistro owner, Violette (Anne-Marie Pisani). Back after taking a back seat to the off-ice fun and games, the tournament becomes more pivotal as the film progresses. The team starts out by losing badly to a ramshackle squad from the Ivory Coast, although things predictably climax with an inspirational match in which Les Boys fare somewhat better.
Saia’s specialty is lunch-bucket, blue-collar comedy, and there’s plenty of that on tap here, with the chuckles rolling in at a good pace. The plot tends to the anecdotal, but the abundance of genuinely comic moments makes up for the lack of narrative momentum. Action sags a bit in the later-going, and pic could easily lose some 20 minutes from the two-hour running time.
The lead thesps all fare quite well. Messier is charming as the indefatigable Bob, Girard introduces a welcome melancholic edge as Stan, and Patrick Huard is the comic heart-and-soul of the film as the likable nerd Ti-Guy. Paul Houde, as the pedantic goalie, and Roc Lafortune, who plays the spaced-out hippie Julien, are both memorable as well.
Tech credits are first-rate, with lenser Georges Archambault making good use of the gorgeous scenery around Chamonix and a series of pumped-up, anthemic rock tracks add plenty of energy.