Petit Nicolas (PG)
Based on the cartoon character created by Asterix creator René Goscinny, Petit Nicolas shouldn’t work when transferred to live action. But it does, and gloriously so.
Set in 1960s France it is a mischievous slice of Gallic whimsy as only child Nicolas is convinced via schoolyard tittle-tattle that not only is his mother pregnant but, when the baby arrives he will be edged out. What’s more, like Tom Thumb, he will be abandoned in the forest.
Thus is set in motion a chain of events that involves Nicolas and his gang dreaming up a scheme to raise 500 francs to have the newborn kidnapped by a gangster named Blind Jack. They find him in the telephone directory after attempting – unsuccessfully – to recruit another villain outside the gates of the prison.
Meanwhile life goes on as Nicolas attempts to convince his mother of his adorable nature via flowers – a florist is flattened by cacti. And Nicolas’s put-upon father, a lowly pen pusher, seeks to win the favour of his boss by means of a dinner invitation. The result – a combination of 13th century Scandinavian poetry and pretentious food – is catastrophic.
Directed with a sure hand by Laurent (Molière) Tirard, Petit Nicolas resembles a Francis Veber comedy sans bad language and risqué humour. In fact its juvenilia are the key to its success – that and a delightful repertory of young stars led by Nicolas himself, aka Maxime Godart.
There is the fat one, the dim one, the rich one, the tough one and the speccy snitch. It’s a delicious ensemble with a backdrop that transcends language and time. Any kid from 10 to 70 will adore this. The real issue is why, having been made in 2009, it’s taken so long to cross the Channel.