Fonzy (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner24/01/2014

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 99 mins

Isabelle Doval's enjoyable scene-for-scene French remake of Starbuck fixes some of the problems of the original film, though it's ultimately not quite as moving and if you've already seen the French Canadian original there's no real reason to see this version.

What's it all about?
Directed by Isabelle Doval, Fonzy is a French remake of Ken Scott's French Canadian comedy Starbuck, which the director also remade in the US as Delivery Man with Vince Vaughn. Jose Garcia (Doval's real-life husband) stars as fish truck driver Diego, a middle-aged slacker who suddenly discovers that he's the biological father to 533 children (thanks to some enthusiastic visits to the sperm bank in the 1980s) and that 142 of them want to meet him and are filing a class action suit for his identity to be revealed.

After filing a counter-suit with his lawyer friend Quentin (Lucien Jean-Baptiste) to try and protect his identity (he's known to the children only anonymously, as “Fonzy”), Diego becomes curious about his progeny, so he begins tracking them down one by one and helping them out, guardian angel-style. To complicate things further, Diego's long-suffering girlfriend Elsa (Audrey Fleurot) announces that she's pregnant and there's also the small matter of the loan sharks who keep popping round to violently retrieve the large sum of money he owes them.

The Good
Garcia has an amiably scruffy presence as Diego, but he's slightly less engaging as a central character than either of his two counterparts; he also doesn't get quite as involved with his new charges, which diminishes the emotional impact of the story. That said, Fleurot does much more with her part than either Julie LeBreton or Cobie Smulders managed in the other two versions – she doesn't have any extra scenes, but she's very funny in the ones she has (binge-eating marshmallows while arguing in a department store, for example) and, like Smulders, completely nails the tricky emotional journey of the climactic sequence.

One key point in its favour is that the French version manages to fix some of the more glaring problems of the original film, most notably the overdosing daughter (Alice Belaïdi) who, rather than making the world's fastest recovery from a heroin addiction, is shown to have only taken drugs once, to spite her ex-boyfriend.

The Bad
Unfortunately, Fonzy doesn't fix the film's biggest problem, which is that the emo-kid character of Xavier (Solal Forte) is still jarringly over the top and seems like a character from a different film. Similarly, the French version largely ignores the loan shark element of the story and also, bafflingly, removes one of the best visual jokes (Starbuck tailing one of his children from male lover to male lover, which turns out to be a clever set-up for him accidentally winding up at the group meeting for the lawsuit).

Worth seeing?
It's questionable whether the world really needs two practically identical French language versions of this story, but Fonzy is enjoyable enough if you haven't seen the original film.

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Content updated: 12/12/2017 08:26

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