In addition to providing a fabulous feature-length ad for Bahamas tourism, this latest U.S. remake of a French film offers some of the same breezy charm as its environs. Those winds could blow some solid box office returns Disney’s way, assuming the low-octane cast can attract enough vacationers to fill its sails with word-of-mouth air.
In an intriguing twist, French star Gerard Depardieu — whose English-language debut was in Disney’s “Green Card”– reprises a role he played in a 1991 French feature, “Mon Pere, ce heros,” for a U.S. version of the same story.
Depardieu stars as an absentee father who decides to take his willful, resentful 14-year-old daughter, Nicole (Katherine Heigl), on a tropical vacation , only to have her concoct a lie about Dad being her lover to impress a slightly older boy (Dalton James) who, she fears, won’t otherwise take her seriously.
That simple premise provides a fertile planting ground for comedy, as word of the “liaison” spreads among the hotel’s increasingly outraged vacationers and staff, who view the oblivious Andre (Depardieu) as the worst sort of dirty old man. Nicole, meanwhile, keeps amplifying her story to keep the charade — and, in her eyes, the boy’s interest — alive, eventually recruiting her father into the act.
There’s also a warm, fuzzy, Hallmark-card angle stemming from the unresolved feelings between father and daughter, as well as Andre’s own uncertainty about his relationship with an unseen girlfriend back in Paris. The film offers a dose of the same reassuring, if decidedly 1990s, message as “Mrs. Doubtfire”– namely, that parents and kids don’t have to stop loving each other after a divorce.
As with his most recent feature, “Forever Young,” director Steve Miner gets the most out of formulaic material, working from a script by Francis Veber and Charlie Peters based on writer/director Gerard Lauzier’s original.
Depardieu, having been over this terrain before, is perfect as the bewildered dad, while the lovely Heigl, now 15 — previously seen in “King of the Hill”– brings the right mix to her role as innocent, boy-crazy coquette and compulsive liar all in one.
The picture is also well cast in terms of supporting players.
The location itself also plays a major role, and cameraman Daryn Okada’s vistas of crystal-blue water and stark white beaches — enhanced by David Newman’s snazzy score — will doubtless make many wish they could make a beeline from the theater to their travel agent.
Production and costume design also lend some island spice to this U.S. souffle, which, despite dragging in places, makes the most of its basic ingredients.