Year 9, Day 189 - 7/8/17 - Movie #2,683
BEFORE: See, back to animated films again - and Nick Offerman carries over from "Danny Collins", umm, I think. This stop-motion film that was nominated for best animated feature is also known as "Ma Vie de Courgette" or "My Life as a Courgette", and knowing that "Courgette" is just the French word for "zucchini" doesn't really help me out very much. But since this film was available to me on an Academy screener, it seems like I should check it out.
THE PLOT: After losing his mother, a young boy is sent to a foster home with other orphans, where he begins to learn the meaning of trust and true love.
AFTER: Well, my mistake today was not fully checking out the DVD before borrowing it from the office, and it turns out there's an English version of the film with voices by Hollywood actors, and the original French version with English subtitles. I borrowed the latter, and the reason the French version was mailed out to Academy members was so that the film could also qualify for Best Foreign Language Film (it was Switzerland's official entry), in addition to the Best Animated Feature Category. But by the time I realized this, I already had the film playing and I was sitting in my recliner with a beverage and a cat on my lap. So I figured, the film's just over an hour long, let it play and if I need to discount it later, I can do that.
But the orphanage theme is right in line with my theme for the week, which is a stroke of luck, and it seems incorrect to remove this from my list, so I'm going to proceed - as penance for my mistake I watched clips on-line of Nick Offerman's character, so I can get a feel for what his performance was like in the English-dubbed version, and my chain can continue. And it was very clear which character he voiced, obviously it would be Raymond, the policeman (authority figure) with the prominent mustache.
It's a quick film, but also a bit of an odd film, and not just because the stop-motion depiction is a little unusual, Zucchini for example has blue hair and those blue circles around his eyes and a very orange nose, I think each character has something a little odd about the way they look in fact. Which leads to some questions, like why did Icare's mother call him "Zucchini", and not, for example, "blueberry" or "carrot"? But anyway...
It's not that important how Zucchini ends up in the orphanage - I wasn't really sure how his mother died, but apparently it was in a way that left him feeling partially responsible and therefore guilty, in addition to being depressed about her demise. We do get some other clues about her from the fact that Zucchini's memento of her is an empty beer can, and he also had a depiction of his father on a kite, with a drawing of a chicken on the other side, because his mother said he liked "chicks", but I have a feeling this was a play on words.
Some of the other jokes didn't seem to land, however, and I wonder if this was due to cultural differences between Europe and America. While on a ski trip to the mountains, for example, the orphan kids see a young boy with his mother, and after noting that the woman is pretty, one kid says, "Maybe she's not his mother..." and the moment hangs there for a long time after, with no explanation. So, do the kids think she's his aunt, older sister, nanny or what? A little help here, guys.
Zucchini also endures some bullying at first, mostly from a fellow orphan named Simon, who seems to be the toughest one in their little group, but after he steals Zucchini's kite and both boys get in trouble for fighting, Zucchini won't tattle on Simon, and this leads to them becoming friends. I'm not sure that's the best way to deal with a bully, by letting him slide for his misdeeds - it's not exactly the best message to send out to the kids in the audience, because there are bullies out there that just don't want to be friends. Not all bullies are secretly pushovers, in other words, who'll befriend you if you do them a solid - some are genuinely nasty people who could probably use some punishment. (I guess Zucchini did pick a fight with the biggest toughest kid, which is what they say you should do if you go to prison - but I have a feeling that's actually horrible advice too.).
Life changes again when a new girl, Camille, comes to the orphanage, and Zucchini is smitten for the first time. Camille's backstory is just as tragic as the other kids' stories, if not more so, and she has an aunt that is trying to gain custody of her, but who mistreats her and yells at her in private, and is only trying to gain custody so she can get money from the government. The kids work together to try and discredit the aunt, so that Camille can stay at the orphanage - I get where they're going with this, but it also seems a little odd to root for a kid to stay in an orphanage. Fortunately there's another long-term solution for both Zucchini and Camille's living situation. You may see it coming from a mile away, but at least it's a positive, uplifting ending.
Also starring the voices of Erick Abbate, Romy Beckman, Will Forte (last seen in "Around the World in 80 Days"), Ellen Page (last seen in "X-Men: Days of Future Past"), Amy Sedaris (last seen in "Chef"), Susanne Blakeslee, Ness Krell, Finn Robbins, Olivia Bucknor, Barry Mitchell - and in the French version, Gaspard Schlatter, Michel Vuillermoz (last seen in "Midnight in Paris"), Paulin Jaccoud, Sixtine Murat, Paul Ribera, Estelle Hennard, Elliot Sanchez, Lou Wick.
RATING: 5 out of 10 water balloons