A conventional but enjoyable continuation of its hit predecessor, "French Men 2" drops in on the lives of its quartet of middle-aged Parisian guys four years later.

A conventional but enjoyable continuation of its hit predecessor, “French Men 2″ drops in on the lives of its quartet of middle-aged Parisian guys four years later. Examining the ebb and flow of love and sex from the male p.o.v. allows scripter-helmer Marc Esposito to reiterate that sometimes hormones do the talking, and sometimes the heart is most audible (French title translates as “The Heart of Men 2″). Oct. 24 release outpaced its predecessor with a strong $3.8 million in its first five days; thesps are sufficiently likeable to attract some modest offshore attention.

Jeff (Gerard Darmon), now 57, has moved to an idyllic country house to live with his way younger g.f. Elsa (Zoe Felix) and their son. At pic’s outset, he announces to his three best friends — gym teacher Antoine (Bernard Campan), chef Manu (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) and high flying publisher Alex (Marc Lavoine) — that he plans to come out of retirement and return to Paris with his second family.

That gets the joshing buddies back to the same location. Camera then follows their interwoven lives, cluing viewers in to what the men do and don’t choose to share with each other. Sometimes funny, often touching narrative is at its best when examining the heartbreak of constraints.

Manu, who is married to adoring Juliette (Florence Thomassin), is having a wonderful affair with also-married Karine (Valerie Stroh). Unbeknownst to their teen son, Antoine is still having sex with his ex-wife (Fabienne Babe) — until, that is, he spots Jeanne (Valerie Kaprisky), who would seem too classy for a demi-jock.

Alex’s wife of 20 years, Nanou (Catherine Wilkening), throws him out of their luxury apartment when she realizes that — from a private detective’s conservative estimate — he’s probably cheated on her at least 400 times. Even Alex’s three pals think his Peter Pan complex has landed him where he deserves to be, but he loves his wife and doesn’t see why compulsive womanizing necessarily makes him a callow jerk (“I stopped smoking, so I’m sure I could stop sleeping around”).

Parallel storylines are assembled with workmanlike clarity. Lensing adequately shows off a Paris in which people actually go to work, in addition to eating and leading complicated private lives. Refreshingly, thesps are permitted to look their respective ages, warts and all.

Venture is heavy on English-lyric source music.

French Men 2

France

Production

A Pathe release of a Pierre Javaux Prods., France 2 Cinema, TF1 Films Production production, with participation of TPS Star. (International sales: Pathe, Paris.) Produced by Pierre Javaux, Marc Esposito. Directed, written by Marc Esposito;

Crew

Camera (color), Pascal Caubere; editor, Benoit Alavoine; music, Beatrice Thiriet; production designer, Fabienne Guillot; costume designer, Melanie Gautier; sound (Dolby), Anne-Laure Farncois, Jean-Luc Verdier; assistant director, Hubert Engammare. Reviewed at UGC Odeon, Paris, Nov. 13, 2007. Running time: 109 MIN.

With

Gerard Darmon, Bernard Campan, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Marc Lavoine, Zoe Felix, Valerie Stroh, Fabienne Babe, Valerie Kaprisky, Florence Thomassin, Catherine Wilkening, Ludmila Mikael.
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