You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis

Popular farceur, playwright and stand-up comic Dany Boon wraps a love letter to his native region of northern France in "Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis," a slickly helmed heartwarmer that's done boffo Gallic biz.

With: Kad Merad, Dany Boon, Zoe Felix, Philippe Duquesne, Line Renaud, Michel Galabru, Stephane Freiss, Guy Lecluyse, Anne Marivin, Patrick Bosso, Zinedine Soualem, Jerome Commandeur, Christophe Rossignon, Yael Boon, Alexandre Carriere. (French, Ch'ti dialogue)

Popular farceur, playwright and stand-up comic Dany Boon wraps a love letter to his native region of northern France in “Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis,” a slickly helmed heartwarmer that’s done boffo Gallic biz. Uncomplicated comedy of manners, centered on a Provencal postal worker who’s exiled to the “grim” north where the natives speak an incomprehensible dialect, plays on French regional prejudices and linguistic tropes but has a genuine charm that’s easily accessible for offshore auds. Smart marketing and good reviews could make this fish-out-of-water comedy also work in a modest way beyond Gaul.

Initially released Feb. 20 in the titular Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, and a week later throughout the whole country, pic set an all-time B.O. record for a French movie, with 4.4 million admissions from almost 800 screens in its first week nationwide. It’s so far grossed more than $80 million to date, with legs still to go.

Philippe Abrams (balding French-Algerian comic Kad Merad) is a post office manager in picturesque Salon-de-Provence who, to please his depressed wife Julie (Zoe Felix), tries to scam his superiors into transferring him a bit farther south to the Cote d’Azur. When his stunt goes horribly wrong, Philippe is told by his immediate superior (Stephane Freiss) that he’s to be sent up north for two years as punishment.

Philippe’s destination is the town of Bergues — just south of Dunkirk, in the area between Belgium and the English Channel — where the people speak a language dubbed “Ch’ti,” aka Picard, that’s a mixture of Latin, French and Flemish. Raised to believe the region is the French Siberia, Philippe, wrapped in Arctic clothing, bids a tearful goodbye to his wife and young son.

Shot in a light, breezy style, with even an animated map charting Philippe’s journey north, the opening reels squeeze the most jokes possible out of southern prejudices while keeping the story moving with a perky, upbeat score. The minute Philippe hits Ch’ti country, a massive downpour hits and he almost runs over a drunk, who turns out to be Antoine Bailleul (Boon), one of his future employees at the local post office.

Script quickly broadens its one-joke premise by introducing a small number of characters from Philippe’s staff, including the pretty Annabelle (Anne Marivin, charming). Despite some early setbacks — the dialect, in particular, is a minefield of misunderstandings — Philippe soon finds the burgers aren’t anything like their stereotypes and starts to warm to life there.

Though the story develops some minor subplots, such as Antoine’s secret love for Annabelle, pic starts to dip at the hour mark as the basic idea wears thin. It’s here that the filmmakers spring their cleverest idea, as Philippe panics when Julie decides to move up and live with him. The locals’ solution to Philippe’s marital quandary results in a sequence that is pure Ealing comedy in its ingenuity, preparing the ground for a simple, inclusive finale.

As the heart and soul of the movie, Merad is aces, mingling confusion, officiousness and simple warmth — best seen in a joyous sequence where he gets royally drunk while accompanying Antoine on the latter’s postal round. Ensemble playing is easy and natural, though Boon’s tendency to mug may not click with all auds.

Still, helming by the multi-hyphenate (who previously directed the bumpier 2006 comedy “Dream House”) is smooth, and production values, under seasoned Pathe producers Claude Berri and Jerome Seydoux, are classy at all levels, creating a de facto universe of its own within the real-life town of Bergues.

Apart from a handful of sequences, subtitling should not present any major problems, as most of the dialogue is in French with only a smattering of Ch’ti, and any heavy use of dialect is always translated for Philippe’s convenience. Film is dedicated to Boon’s mother, Daniele, “une Ch’tie merveilleuse.”

Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis


Production: A Pathe release of a Pathe Renn Prods., Hirsch, TF1 Films Prod., Les Prods. du Chicon production, with participation of Canal Plus, CNC. (International sales: Pathe, Paris.) Produced by Claude Berri, Jerome Seydoux. Executive producer, Eric Hubert. Directed by Dany Boon. Screenplay, Boon, Franck Magnier, Alexandre Charlot; original idea, Boon.

Crew: Camera (color, Panavision widescreen), Pierre Aim; editors, Luc Barnier, Julie Delord; music, Philippe Rombi; art director, Alain Veissier; costume designer, Florence Sadaune; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS Digital), Lucien Balibar, Franck Desmoulins, Roman Dymny, Francois Groult; artistic collaborator, Yael Boon; assistant director, Nicolas Guy; casting, Gerard Moulevrier. Reviewed at UGC Normandie 1, Paris, March 12, 2008. Running time: 106 MIN.

With: With: Kad Merad, Dany Boon, Zoe Felix, Philippe Duquesne, Line Renaud, Michel Galabru, Stephane Freiss, Guy Lecluyse, Anne Marivin, Patrick Bosso, Zinedine Soualem, Jerome Commandeur, Christophe Rossignon, Yael Boon, Alexandre Carriere. (French, Ch'ti dialogue)

More Film

  • Studiocanal has sold Jean-Paul Gaultier's "Freak

    Jean-Paul Gaultier's 'Freak And Chic' Documentary Sells For Studiocanal (EXCLUSIVE)

    Underscoring the strength and scope of French fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier’s legacy around the world, the documentary “Jean Paul Gaultier Freak And Chic,” which chronicles the making of Gaultier’s ongoing popular show in Paris, has been luring distributors in key markets. Sold by Studiocanal and produced by Capa, the documentary has already been picked [...]

  • Korea Box Office: 'MAL·MO·E' and 'Inside

    Korea Box Office: 'MAL·MO·E' and 'Inside Me' Remain on Top

    There was no change at the top of the Korean box office, as local titles “MAL·MO·E: The Secret Mission” and “Inside Me (a.k.a. The Dude in Me)” dominated a second weekend. Lotte’s “MAL·MO·E” earned $4.79 million from 618,000 admissions between Friday and Sunday for a total of $16.7 million from 2.23 million admissions after two [...]


    China Box Office: ‘Bumblebee’ Flies to $138 Million Total

    “Bumblebee” flew to its third weekend of dominance in China. But the Chinese box office remains in lackluster mode at the start of 2019. The spinoff of Paramount’s “Transformers” franchise earned $16.1 million in Chinese theaters between Friday and Sunday, according to data from exhibition and distribution consultancy Artisan Gateway. That was a 38% drop [...]

  • Mara Watkins Nabhaan Rizwan Steven Wouterlood

    Diverse Talents Pepper Variety's Fifth 10 Europeans to Watch List

    Variety has unveiled its fifth edition of 10 Europeans to Watch, spotlighting 10 rising talents from across the continent who are poised for breakthroughs in 2019. The selection includes emerging actors, directors, showrunners and cinematographers from six countries whose dynamic talents are being showcased on screens big and small, and on both sides of the camera. [...]

  • Glass Movie

    Box Office: 'Glass' Shines Overseas With $48.5 Million Weekend

    After autobots and aquatic kings have dominated foreign markets over the past few weeks, a different kind of hero has risen to the top of box office charts. M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass” is the new champ overseas, pulling in $48.5 million from international territories. The supernatural thriller, a sequel to 2000’s “Unbreakable” and 2016’s “Split,” debuted [...]

  • Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo, Marco Graf

    'Roma' and 'The Favourite' Lead London Critics' Circle Winners

    After ruling the U.S. critics’ award circuit, “Roma” continued its dominance on the other side of the pond, as the London Film Critics’ Circle announced its winners tonight. A week after landing seven BAFTA nominations, Alfonso Cuarón’s Mexico City memory piece landed film of the year and director of the year honors from the group [...]

  • M. Night Shyamalan Should Stop Writing

    The Big Twist M. Night Shyamalan Needs: He Should Stop Writing His Own Scripts (Column)

    Quick, name the greatest film by each of the following directors: Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, David Lean, Robert Altman, Roman Polanski, Kathryn Bigelow, Jonathan Demme. Answers will vary (mine would be: “Psycho,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Nashville,” “Chinatown,” “The Hurt Locker,” “The Silence of the Lambs”), but whatever your taste, odds are that [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content