Petit Nicolas (PG)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner24/08/2012

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 91 mins

Enjoyable, well made adaptation of the popular children's books, with likeable characters, strong comic performances and impeccable production design.

What's it all about?
Directed by Laurent Tirard, Petit Nicolas is an adaptation of the popular 1960s children's books by Rene Goscinny (co-creator of Asterix) and illustrator Jean-Jacques Sempe, whose drawings are beautifully reproduced in a delightful opening credits sequence. Maxime Godart plays 7 year old Nicolas, who panics when a series of misunderstandings lead him to believe his parents (Valérie Lemercier and Kad Merad) are going to have a second child and leave him in the woods.

Fortunately, Nicolas's friends, including gluttonous Alceste (Vincent Claude), dopey Clotaire (Victor Carles) and class swot Agnan (Damien Ferdel), rally round. They come up with a series of schemes, ranging from making sure Nicolas is indispensable at home to raising money in order to hire a gangster to kidnap the baby when it eventually appears. Needless to say, nothing goes quite according to plan.

The Good
The performances are excellent, particularly Valérie Lemercier and Kad Merad, who are very funny as Nicolas' doting parents. Godart is equally good as Nicolas (he's the spitting image of the illustrations) and there's also strong comic support from the ubiquitous Sandrine Kiberlain (as Nicolas' teacher) and Daniel Prévost (as Nicolas' father's boss, Monsieur Moucheboume). Meanwhile, Victor Carles proves something of a scene-stealer as Clotaire and gets the film's biggest laughs (the expression on his face when he gets a question right at a crucial moment is priceless).

The younger characters are both gently amusing and extremely well drawn, with the script giving each of the kids a distinctive personality trait without tipping into stereotype or caricature; as a result, their interactions feel natural and work well. In addition, Tirard's direction is pacey and charming, throwing in Amelie-style cutaway gags and voiceover to add to the general ‘je ne sais quoi’.

The Great
On top of that, the production design is exceptional, recalling 1960s French films and delivering an agreeable hit of nostalgia, heightened by a terrific score by Klaus Badelt. The only real problem with the film is that some of the sub-plots feel a little slight (more time could have been spent with Elisa Heusch as Nicolas' only female friend, Marie-Edwige, for example), while Nicolas is also a little too much of a goody-goody compared to his British equivalents and you can't help feeling that the likes of Molesworth, Just William or Jennings would have made short work of him.

Worth seeing?
Petit Nicolas is a charming, beautifully made and superbly acted children's film and it's not hard to see why it was a huge hit with Franco-Belgian audiences. Highly recommended.

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Petit Nicolas (PG)
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Content updated: 23/10/2017 17:53

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