Welcome to the Sticks

            French cinema has slowly been creeping back into the British mainstream. 5 years ago if you asked anyone about what they thought French cinema, the masses would reply that they had seen ‘Amelie’, and the arts students would reply that if you had not seen ‘The Dreamers’ then you did not really understand French cinema. But with the recent rerelease of ‘Jules et Jim’ and last year’s tribute to the capital ‘Paris Je T’aime’, it was only a matter of time before other films began to spring up.

            One of these is Danny Boon’s ‘Beinvenue chez les Ch’tis’ (Welcome to the Sticks). Following a postal manager Phillipe Abrams, an excellent piece of casting in the form of Kad Merad, who inadvertently has his office relocated from the sunny and sophisticated south of France into what he believes is going to be the cold and comfortless north region. While the plot may sound thin and incomprehensible to an audience that does not understand the cultural heritage of the French north south divide, this film works happily for the United Kingdom where the English north south divide seems to fairly similar to what these regions of France think of each other.

            While Kad Merad is an excellent comic actor on his own, his scenes by himself are few and tend to move towards stereotypically French comedy, including an hilarious scene with a wheelchair. The comedy, and consequently the film, really kicks off upon his arrival in the north and his unlikely friendship with the molly coddled alcoholic postman Antione Bailleul (Danny Boon). Their scenes together spray a good tension and misunderstanding that eventually leads to a delightful comic banter and what seems to be an earnest friendship.

            Unlike a considerable amount of comedy that is churned out by the Hollywood studios in the last few years leading to the rise of stars like Ben Stiller and Will Farrell, this film decides to invest in the relationships of characters and fleshes them out so that they are not two dimensional joke machines on legs. The sincerity of the relationships between the five unlikely post office workers as they go to lunch at the local chip stand is something deeply missed by big American productions and this film could teach them a lesson to about emotional continuity.

            There are few low points of this film though. One is that a good half of the film and part of its resolution is the dislike of the north by the south. No matter how many times the joke is told in its different ways, it does start to grate after around 45 minutes. Without a dubbed version of this film, a large amount of the distinctive sharp French comedy is lost in translation when attempting to show the difference in accents. This results in most of the northern characters having the subtitles changed to distort their pronunciation of their words. An excellent idea and well attempted but it does make for difficult reading and a wandering joke about fish, most likely hilarious in French, is completely lost because of the sheer speed at which the lines are delivered and that you need to read at.

            Besides these minor points, ‘Welcome to the Sticks’ is a fun, light hearted and warming comedy. Everyone from Kad Merad and Danny Boon to the irritable mother and the town yokels are well cast and excellently played, dipping either side of the line of light comedy and slight severity. I hope for the future more films like this come out of France and make into the mainstream cinemas. Get this one DVD, because it won’t disappoint you. 

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One Response to “Welcome to the Sticks”

  1. Kris Says:

    I’ve been meaning to watch this for a while. I’ll grab it now.

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