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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

LES COMPERES (1983)

Francis Veber has made French Boulevard farce look natural on the screen for decades. There’s no secret to his formula, it’s just that no one else does it so consistently. He sets up character & situation not in an act, but in a single reel. And at his best, as he is here, no one needs to act stupid just to keep the complications humming. COMPERES plays out that old stand-by, ‘Too Many Dads.’ A troubled teenage kid runs away with his girl and gets mixed up with her nasty gang. His mom calls two old flames (the unbeatable team of Pierre Richard & Gerard Depardieu) to help find him, telling each that the boy is his son. As wild card, Depardieu is also hunting up evidence against mob types who are soon on his tail. Veber can be faulted for fumbling the choreography on a couple of physical gags (as slapstick technician, he’s no Blake Edwards), but he knows what he needs to get in each & every shot, gets it, & then gets out. Stylistically, it's not so far removed from Don Siegel's blunt practicality, if Siegel could tell a joke. But then, Pierre Richard is so inspired here, anyone would come up aces. (Except perhaps Ivan Reitman, who gave us FATHER’S DAY/'97, the gruesome Hollywood remake of COMPERES starring Robin Williams & Billy Crystal. Just typing up those names gives me the willies.)

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