A rollicking comedy "Would I Lie to You? 2" is a more than worthy sequel to the 1997 pic. Perfectly chosen adventures in the rag trade, and with shapely women in low-cut garb, continue, thanks to an entertaining script complete with several catchphrases that will almost certainly be repeated in schoolyards and around dinner tables across France.

A rollicking comedy that has local smash written all over it, “Would I Lie to You? 2″ is a more than worthy — and more overtly funny — sequel to the 1997 pic that racked up 5 million admissions in Gaul. Perfectly chosen cast’s adventures in the rag trade, and with shapely women in low-cut garb, continue, thanks to a consistently entertaining script complete with several gags and catchphrases that will almost certainly be repeated in schoolyards and around dinner tables across France.

Offshore, Jewish fests may be the best way to determine if this lively tale of flamboyant, emotive Sephardic Jews in the clothing biz trying to stay afloat in a world of cheap knockoffs and devious multinational corporations can travel in style. Pic bowed locally Feb. 7 with the second biggest opening in French B.O. history, with 503,000 admissions on 827 prints.

Eddie (Richard Anconina), Dov (Gad Elmaleh), Yvan (Bruno Solo), Patrick (Gilbert Melki) and Serge (Jose Garcia) are friends and associates come hell or high water, parlaying their garment district savvy and business chutzpah into connections and cash. The first three live comfortably off their hard work, while Patrick and Serge, who are cousins, represent two extremes of the economic spectrum. Cigar-chomping, snappy dresser Patrick lives in a luxurious mansion; lovable loser Serge is a motorcycle messenger who still lives with his elderly parents.

But when Serge meets gorgeous young Jewish student Chochana (Elisa Tovati) while driving Patrick’s blue Rolls convertible on an errand, he lets the impression stand that he’s made of money.

Due to high domestic labor costs and the invasion of Internet start-ups, business is drastically down in Le Sentier, Paris’ garment district. Worried, Eddie and Yvan approach the brass at EuroDiscount, a European chain of colossal downmarket department stores. The sharklike manager, Vierhouten (Daniel Prevost, in a delectable perf), drives an exceedingly hard bargain. Eddie and Yvan hold up their end, but Vierhouten maliciously turns down the purpose-sewn merchandise, an unfair tactic that sends Eddie toward bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, penniless Serge’s charade gets him into the untenable situation of being slated to marry Chochana, the pampered daughter of a wealthy furniture kingpin (vet singer Enrico Macias, in a strong screen debut). Gag-packed script builds beautifully to a clever revenge in which the underdogs have their day.

Conveying demeanors from ultra-cool (suave high-roller Melki) to flop-sweat desperate (inventively clutzy Garcia), the likable thesps weave their lines of B.S. with admirable skill. They’re all easy to root for, however much they dig their own graves.

Pic’s humor trades in ethnic stereotypes and shamelessly macho attitudes but is played strictly for laughs. Garcia — a powerhouse comic talent who steals the show — puts just the right spin on his scapegoat role. Slangy dialogue is frequently hilarious, ensemble cast is well-oiled, and comic timing couldn’t be smoother.

Highlights in the swiftly paced romp include James Bond-spoofing opening credits and a wacky Sabbath dinner in which a conversational misunderstanding evolves in the vein of the immortal “Who’s on first?” routine. Mining a corner of the same territory that hit home for Gallic viewers in “The Dinner Game,” pic also paints an uncomfortably funny portrait of the accelerated road to financial ruin Eddie faces once lawyers and tax inspectors get into the act.

Lensing is bright and breezy, with Brussels standing in for Paris and location work in St. Tropez, Los Angeles and Tunisia.

Would I Lie To You? 2

France

Production

A Warner Bros. release (in France) of a Vertigo Prods. production, in association with Telegraphe, with participation of TF1, M6 and TPS Cinema. (International sales: Vertigo Prods., Paris.) Produced by Aissa Djabri, Farid Lahouassa, Manuel Munz. Directed by Thomas Gilou. Screenplay, Michel Munz, Gerard Bitton.

Crew

Camera (color), Robert Alazraki; editor, Nicole Saunier; art director, Olivier Raoux; costume designer, Jean-Marc Mirete; sound (Dolby), Bernard Le Roux; assistant director, Alain Oliveri; casting, Bruno Levy. Reviewed at UGC Normandie, Paris, Jan. 16, 2001. Running time: 105 MIN.

With

Eddie - Richard Anconina Serge - Jose Garcia Yvan - Bruno Solo Dov - Gad Elmaleh Patrick - Gilbert Melki Vierhouten - Daniel Prevost Chochana - Elisa Tovati Maurice Boutboul - Enrico Macias Karine - Aure Atika Sandra - Amira Casar
With: Nicole Calfan, Marc Andreoni

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