Quebec crowds in hysterics over ‘Fathers and Guns’

Canuck French-lingo action comedy is second highest at local B.O.

Canuck French-language action-comedy “Fathers and Guns” — “De Pere en flic,” en francais — is one of the most successful local films ever in the mostly French-speaking province of Quebec.

But its record-breaking success has many in the biz here scratching their heads. All agree it is an efficient commercial vehicle, but no one is quite sure why it has outperformed all expectations, becoming the second highest grossing local pic ever in Quebec.

The pic from Montreal writer-director Emile Gaudreault focuses on a father-and-son duo who are both cops on the Montreal police force, with the macho dad mostly ashamed of his nerdy son. They go off to a wacky self-help camp in the woods for dads and sons with issues.

“There’s no logical explanation for the success of this film,” said Simon Beaudry, president of Montreal-based box office tracking firm Cineac. “Each week, you think it’s going to go down, and it doesn’t. Normally, films like this, with a big launch, go down 30% the second week. But the sales just kept coming week after week.”

The movie has made a little more than C$10 million ($9.3 million) at the Quebec box office since its July 8 release, and it is now within sniffing distance of “Bon Cop, Bad Cop,” another action-comedy, which holds the all-time record for ticket sales for a local pic here (with a gross in Quebec of $9.8 million).

The success of “Bon Cop” in 2006 was more easily explained. That pic was the first-ever fully bilingual mainstream pic, and it became a local sensation by making comic hay out of the always-contentious issue of English-French relations in Canada.

But “Fathers and Guns” is more conventional than “Bon Cop,” Beaudry says. “It can’t be explained. It’s a social phenomenon. You had to see it this summer.”

It has been a good summer for ticket sales for Quebec film — almost entirely thanks to “Fathers and Guns,” which accounted for two-thirds of all sales for local pics this summer. The film helped boost Quebec pic sales bigtime: Local films nabbed 17.8% of all ticket sales in Quebec this summer, up from 8.4% of all sales in the summer of 2008. Three other Quebec films topped the $1 million mark — caper comedy “Sticky Fingers,” sky-diving pic “Free Fall” and teen swimming drama “A vos marques — .Party! 2” — but none of those films even made it to the $2 million mark.

“Fathers and Guns” producer Denise Robert is most proud that her film handily topped the Hollywood competition. Pic topped the closest U.S. contender, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” by $3 million in Quebec.

But even Robert admits it’s a matter of “being at the right place at the right time with the right movie.”

Patrick Roy, president of Alliance Vivafilm, which handled “Fathers and Guns,” underlines the fact that the comedy stars two “mega-vedettes” (big stars) — seasoned thesp Michel Cote and top-selling standup comic Louis-Jose Houde — and that both pulled in their own crowd for the film. That helped the pic appeal to a very wide demographic.

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