Sunday, October 19, 2014

Qu'est-ce qu'on a fait au Bon Dieu

French parents Claude (Christian Clavier) and Marie (Chantal Lauby) witness three of their four daughters get married one year right after another, but not in the way they expect. The first one marries an Arab; the second, a Jew; and the third, a Chinese. Suffice it to say that every family gathering thereafter would be as interesting as it is awkward, as differences in religion, political views, and dietary habits all form part of a persistent four-way culture clash. As such, the couple counts on their youngest daughter Laure (Élodie Fontan) to restore balance in the family by marrying a traditional Frenchy, preferably Catholic. Much to their delight, she eventually announces that she is marrying her Catholic boyfriend Charles; Charles, like General de Gaulle, as her father would remark. They find out later on that Charles is actually from the Ivory Coast, and his father, who is just as racist as hers, does not agree to the wedding at all.

Perhaps a similar Hollywood movie that comes to mind is Meet the Fockers, as far as the clash between the parents of the wedding couple is concerned. The film begs to differ by throwing in the issue of race, courtesy of the groom and the three sons-in-law. The plot is quite contrived, but easily forgivable because it is really obvious from the very beginning that this is going to be a feel-good flick anyway. While the issue of multiracial Europe is discussed, it is done in a manner that would come off as a bit offensive to some because of the unabashed dialogue and stereotypes perpetuated. It still depends on the audience, though. What is politically incorrect for one could be a good satire for another, right?

The banter between the fathers of the bride and the groom is reminiscent of that between Robert de Niro and Dustin Hoffman in Meet the Fockers. Even some of the scenes have similarities in terms of execution. This movie’s advantage, though, would be the three sons-in-law, who provide most of the laughs during the first half of the movie. However, their screen time is significantly reduced to make way for more scenes with the father and the soon-to-be father-in-law during the second half. Unfortunately, the brand of humor of those two seems to lean more on slapstick, which could be annoying at times.

Many people would find this film racist, and would dismiss it for that assertion alone, which is sad because the movie is actually funny. If anything, it does make a good commentary with regards to the current situation in Europe as far as issues of race are concerned. The truth hurts most of the time, but done with the right brand of humor it could actually be turned into a scathing commentary everyone could laugh at, without really having to skirt around the issue. South Park actually does this most of the time, but then again it is a cartoon which most people tend to take less seriously.

Racism is always a delicate issue, and making a movie about it is always a risky business given how people would tend to find it either too offensive or too safe. This film seems to be lost somewhere in between. While it has become a runaway hit in France as well as in its  neighboring countries, the movie has not been picked up by any distributor in either the US or the UK because of the rather delicate topic it tackles, which American and British audiences might not find humorous at all. Their loss, perhaps...

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