Film Review: ‘The Brats’

Alain Chabat, Max Boublil, Sandrine Kiberlain, Melanie Bernier, Arie Elmaleh, Elisa Sednaoui, Alban Lenoir, Francois Dunoyer, Nicolas Briancon, Iggy Pop.

A wannabe musician in his early 30s unexpectedly becomes close buddies with his future father-in-law in “The Brats,” the often hilarious but structurally uneven debut of French scribe-helmer Anthony Marciano. Co-written by and toplining local YouTube sensation Max Boublil, pic cleverly casts the new star opposite vet comic Alain Chabat, here playing a couch-potato dad who decides it’s time to relive his youth with his daughter’s b.f. Though its fizzy energy can’t compensate for a narrative throughline that feels somewhat jerry-rigged, “Brats” has been a solid hit in Gaul, closing in on a $10 million gross after just three weeks. Remake rights could be of interest offshore.

Thomas (Boublil) wants to be a composer but is stuck as a wedding singer, until his own impending nuptials with g.f. Lola (Melanier Bernier) make him decide to take an office job, grow up and be responsible. When he finally meets Lola’s father, Gilbert (Chabat), he gets a glimpse of where this may lead him, as the fiftysomething’s only pleasures seem to be in riling his wife (Sandrine Kiberlain), who’s into organic food and helping children in Africa, and exercising his right to the TV remote control in their comfortable suburban home.

The genius spark of the screenplay, co-written by Boublil and Marciano, is that Gilbert wants to dissuade Thomas from marrying his daughter because, clearly, if his own life is any indication, it’s not worth it. Gilbert, who used to be something of a musician himself, thinks it’s time to reclaim something of his lost youth, so he moves into his daughter’s empty apartment in Paris and drags along the initially hesitant Thomas to all kinds of wild parties.

There are quite a few clever and funny setpieces in store — including one involving a hilariously improvised translation of an Iranian official’s comments during a nuclear summit — and thankfully, the film refrains from bogging down in misogyny, even though the female characters are mostly brought to life by the actresses rather than the writing.

What’s missing is a compact structure and a clearer handle on the characters’ dramatic arcs; the film feels too much like a loose collection of scenes roughly stitched together. Besides the Iranian antics, a visit to Morocco feels especially far-fetched and tangential, though Marciano does try to tie it into the story by way of Thomas’ musical dreams and Gilbert’s outsized desire to help him achieve them.

Indeed, music is one of the film’s key ingredients, which is to be expected, as Boublil’s YouTube and standup-comedian fame derive largely from his cheeky, singalong-ready songs, some of which (co-authored by Marciano) are featured here among the 30-plus ditties on the soundtrack. Iggy Pop also pops up in a cameo, though surprisingly, this is one of the film’s least funny bits.

Boublil, a mix of lovable goofball and uncertain adult, is put to perfect use here and nicely complements Chabat’s brand of childlike glee, while Kiberlain manages to make her character not too shrill; Bernier’s lovely in an equally underwritten part. Tech credits are big-budget smooth.

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Film Review: 'The Brats'

Reviewed at UGC Cine Cite Les Halles, Paris, April 30, 2013. Running time: 97 MIN. Original title: "Les Gamins"

Production: (France) A Gaumont release of a Gaumont, Legende Films, Peopleforcinema Prods. presentation of a Legende Films, Peopleforcinema Prods production, in association with Gaumont, Bamago, TF1 Films Production, with the participation of Canal Plus, TF1. (International sales: Gaumont, Paris.) Produced by Ilan Goldman, Simon Istolainen.

Crew: Directed by Anthony Marciano. Screenplay, Marciano, Max Boublil, Noe Debre, Mona Achache. Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Jean-Paul Agostini; editor, Virginie Bruant; music, Marciano; production designer, Marie Cheminal; costume designer, Karen Muller Serreau; sound, Frederic de Ravignan; associate producer, Catherine Morisse-Monceau; assistant director, Fabien Vergez; casting, Pierre-Jacques Benichou, Christophe Istier.

With: Alain Chabat, Max Boublil, Sandrine Kiberlain, Melanie Bernier, Arie Elmaleh, Elisa Sednaoui, Alban Lenoir, Francois Dunoyer, Nicolas Briancon, Iggy Pop.

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