Small-town detective dramedy "Home Sweet Home" offers up a seductive pitch and some strong performances, but is marred by lazy filmmaking that never rises above smallscreen level.

Small-town detective dramedy “Home Sweet Home” offers up a seductive pitch and some strong performances, but is marred by lazy filmmaking that never rises above smallscreen level. Genre-hopping Gallic yarn from writer-director Didier Le Pecheur (“Don’t Let Me Die on a Sunday”) intertwines a family meller with a whodunit plot, mixing in bits of crafty dialogue and a few workable gags. Still, nothing in this curious tweener ever jells completely, and the denouement is both prolonged and predictablePic’s home welcome was less than sweet on mid-November release, but it deserves fest play.

After her long-term b.f. (Nicolas Gob) cheats on her, overworked TV star Claire (Judith Godreche) heads to her childhood home in hopes of finding some family solace. Instead, she finds her dad, Albert (Daniel Prevost), and his best friend, Gedeon (Patrick Chesnais) — both of whom raised Claire after her mother’s death 30 years ago — in the midst of a nasty row. Gedeon is threatening to slam the door.

Meanwhile, on the other side of town (which has about five residents and seemingly no available extras), Paris-based detective Joubert (Alexandre Astier) arrives to investigate the death of a photo store owner. He’s teamed with a clueless local cop (Raphael Lenglet), whose nonchalant incompetence provides some of the film’s funniest moments.

When Joubert stumbles on some photos of Claire’s mom, the dots linking the two narratives are slowly but surely connected, revealing buried family secrets and a possible love affair between cop and star.

Script, co-written by Le Pecheur, Bruno Cadillon and filmmaker/critic Nicolas Saada, is reminiscent of ’70s pics by Yves Robert or Pascal Thomas that combined elements of adult comedy with lightweight caper scenarios. But Le Pecheur’s direction is too flighty to give the suspense its needed pull, while the jokes never go far enough to provoke full laughter.

Thesps Prevost and Chesnais make for a viable, modern-day odd couple, and tend to outperform their younger co-stars in most scenes.

Tech package is far too relaxed, with d.p. Myriam Vinocour (“What If … ?”) making the rural setting appear as gray and depressing as it surely is in real life. Omnipresent score by Francois Staal doesn’t provide the missing link needed to make this mystery click.

Home Sweet Home

France

Production

A Rezo Films release of a Program 33, Rezo Prods. production, in association with Banque Populaire Images 8, Soficinema 4, with participation of Canal Plus, TPS Star, CNC. (International sales: Rezo, Paris.) Produced by Fabrice Coat, Jean-Michel Rey, Philippe Liegeois. Directed by Didier Le Pecheur. Screenplay, Le Pecheur, Bruno Cadillon, Nicolas Saada.

Crew

Camera (color), Myriam Vinocour; editor, Yves Beloniak; music, Francois Staal; production designer, Jean-Jacques Gernolle; costume designers, Marie Calvet, Brigitte Calvet; sound, Didier Sain, Maud Lombart, Christophe Leroy; assistant director, Hadrien Bichet. Reviewed at UGC Orient Express 6, Paris, Nov. 27, 2008. Running time: 100 MIN.

With

Judith Godreche, Patrick Chesnais, Daniel Prevost, Alexandre Astier, Raphael Lenglet, Gerard Loussine, Gabriel Valensi, Lorant Deutsch, Nicolas Gob.
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