×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Le petit Nicolas

Film reps the first screen adaptation of a popular series of French children's books from the '60s.

With:
With: Valerie Lemercier, Kad Merad, Sandrine Kiberlain, Francois-Xavier Demaison, Maxime Godart, Vincent Claude, Charles Vaillant, Victor Carles, Benjamin Averty, Germain Petit Damico.

Although it sounds like a possible title for a Sarkozy biopic, “Le petit Nicolas” actually reps the first screen adaptation of a popular series of French children’s books from the ’60s. Unfortunately, while the original tales of the titular, mischievous 7-year-old were enriched by author Rene Goscinny’s witticisms and illustrator Jean-Jacques Sempe’s energetic sketches, helmer Laurent Tirard’s live-action version is just the opposite: heavy-handed, overtly cute and rarely funny despite an onslaught of expensive visual gags. This hefty Franco-Belge co-production should score with homeland families and fans; overseas coin will be more petit than grand.

The appeal of the original books by Goscinny (who also created the “Asterix” comicbooks) and New Yorker artist Sempe was that, not unlike “The Simpsons,” they always functioned on two levels: Kids could enjoy the pranks of Nicolas and his buds, while parents could appreciate the authors’ keen insights into the hypocrisy of adults and the naively cruel way in which children tend to treat one another.

The illustrated stories — first published in the French and Belgian press and then assembled into several volumes in the early ’60s — were also distinguished by their simplicity, which is far from the case here. Instead, writer-director Tirard (“Moliere”) and co-scribes Gregoire Vigneron (“Changing Sides”) and Alain Chabat (“The Science of Sleep”) try to pack in as many yarns and vignettes as possible, relying on techniques (especially cutaways and a whimsical voiceover) from the Jean-Pierre Jeunet filmmaking handbook to solder it all together.

Major plotline focuses on young Nicolas (Maxime Godart, adorable but expressionless), who fears that his wage-slave dad (Kad Merad, “Welcome to the Sticks”) and manic housewife mom (Valerie Lemercier, “Avenue Montaigne”) are going to have a second child. He enlists his coterie of school chums — including gluttonous Alceste (Vincent Claude), bossy Rufus (Germain Petit Damico) and clueless Clotaire (Victor Carles) — to raise funds and hire a contract killer to do away with the eventual newborn.

The catch is that there’s no new baby on the way, and this, like a handful of other quid pro quos scattered throughout, is the basis of most of the humor. None of it is very amusing, save for an extended dinner sequence in which Lemercier and Merad reveal how well they can pull off a joke when it’s not overheated from the start.

The clan of boys, and especially Nicolas himself, are too impeccably coiffed, dressed and mannered to resemble the ruffians depicted in Sempe’s drawings, or anything like real kids at all. Along with Francoise Dupertuis’ flamboyant sets and tidy lensing by Denis Rouden (“MR 73”), the result is a look of squeaky-clean postwar nostalgia, closer to Christophe Barratier’s “The Chorus” than to Truffaut’s “The 400 Blows,” which was set around the same time period.

Le petit Nicolas

France-Belgium

Production: A Wild Bunch Distribution (in France) release of a Fidelite Films, IMAV, Wild Bunch, M6 Films, Mandarin Films (France)/Scope Pictures (Belgium) production, with participation of Orange Cinema Series, M6, la Region Wallonne. (International sales: Wild Bunch, Paris.) Produced by Olivier Delbosc, Marc Missonnier. Directed by Laurent Tirard. Screenplay, Tirard, Gregoire Vigneron, Alain Chabat, based on the "Le petit Nicolas" books by Rene Goscinny and Jean-Jacques Sempe.

Crew: Camera (color), Denis Rouden; editor, Valerie Deseine; music, Klaus Badelt; production designer, Francoise Dupertuis; costume designer, Pierre-Jean Larroque; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS), Ricardo Castro, Paul Heymans, Thomas Gauder; assistant director, Alan Corno; casting, Agathe Hassenforder, Gerard Moulevrier. Reviewed at UGC Cine Cite Les Halles 10, Oct 1, 2009. (In Rome Film Festival -- Alice in the City.) Running time: 91 MIN.

With: With: Valerie Lemercier, Kad Merad, Sandrine Kiberlain, Francois-Xavier Demaison, Maxime Godart, Vincent Claude, Charles Vaillant, Victor Carles, Benjamin Averty, Germain Petit Damico.

More Film

  • Issa Rae and LaKeith Stanfield

    Issa Rae, LaKeith Stanfield to Star in Romantic Drama 'The Photograph'

    Issa Rae and LaKeith Stanfield will star in Universal’s “The Photograph,” sources tell Variety. Stella Meghie will direct and Will Packer will produce for his eponymous production company. The romantic drama centers on intertwining love stories in the past and present, which Meghie will executive produce in addition to writing and directing. More Reviews TV [...]

  • Aaron Paul attends the 2019 Sun

    Aaron Paul, Chelsea Handler and Meg Ryan Topline Sun Valley Film Fest

    Aaron Paul is an Idaho boy at heart. The three-time Emmy winning star of “Breaking Bad” and producer and actor on Nickelodeon’s bawdy, subversive animated series “Bojack Horseman” currently makes his home in Los Angeles, but Paul was born in Emmett, a sleepy city about 30 miles outside of Boise, and escapes to the spud [...]

  • Writers Guild Blasts CAA, WME for

    Writers Guild Blasts Talent Agencies CAA, WME for 'Soaring' Profits

    The Writers Guild of America has singled out Hollywood’s largest talent agencies, William Morris Endeavor and Creative Artists Agency, for allegedly soaring profits. The WGA, in an acrimonious negotiation over proposed new rules about how agencies represent writers, issued a report called “agencies for sale” on Monday morning — a few hours before a fifth [...]

  • MGM logo

    MGM Hires Robert Marick to Expand Consumer Products

    Metro Goldwyn Mayer has hired industry veteran Robert Marick as executive VP of global consumer products and experiences. In his new role, Marick is responsible for overseeing the expansion of MGM’s traditional merchandise, interactive and consumer products business. He’s also developing a global strategy with a focus on core consumer products licensing, digital and gaming, [...]

  • Robert Iger and Rupert Murdochcredit: Disney

    Wall Street Applauds as Disney Nears Finish Line on Fox Acquisition

    Wall Street is rooting for Disney as the media giant reaches the finish line this week in its 15-month quest to acquire most of Rupert Murdoch’s film and TV empire. Fox shareholders, on the other hand, are being a little more cautious. Disney is poised to close the $71.3 billion deal that took many twists [...]

  • Personal Tales From Hong Kong, China

    Personal Tales From Hong Kong and China Among the Asia Film Financing Forum Projects

    A brace of personal tales from China and Hong Kong are among the 23 projects vying for attention at the 17th Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum. Liu Miaomiao is a rare female ethnic Hui Muslim filmmaker. She came to international prominence with 1993’s “Chatterbox” that won the President of the Italian Senate’s Gold Medal [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content