The third opus of the forever-flawed "French Fried Vacation" trilogy has a subtitle: it is "Friends Forever" well I suppose that doesn't include the audience. Am I funny? No, I just put myself on the film's level. It is not just bad but embarrassingly bad. It's the kind of movies that don't just make you notice how bad they are, but make you angry, because it ruined a legacy.
Now, whenever you'd have to say how great the first one in the African resort and the second in the mountains were great, you'd have to add that the third one was terrible. The same thing happened a few years ago with that dreadful "Visitors" sequel, the kind of experience where you leave the film thinking "Is there such a shortage of good writers that this is the best they could come up with?" And speaking of "Visitors", it is interesting because five years had passed till they made the sequel but given how spectacularly awful it was, you would have thought it was two decades.
"French Fried Vacation 3" was made 27 years after: on that level, it felt like an eternity, because you'd better believe only the cruel passing of time can make you go from fun, wit and modern relevance to plain mediocrity. It is sad, sad to see characters that defined the new face of French comedy being such hacks. They used to play relatively unlikable persons, but they did it with fun, warmth and a special ingredient that always earned our empathy, in the third, they're unlikable people played in an unlikable way. The same characters are here, they have money, problems but the heart isn't in it.
The handsome womanizer and goofy loser Popeye (Thierry Lhermitte) lost its touch with the ladies but being the tallest can pass as "good looks". The greatest blasphemy was when the ultimate loser Jean-Claude Dus (Michel Blanc) turns to a cheerful successful businessman specialized in wigs and the boyfriend of Gigi (Marie-Anne Chazel) who's just had breast implants. She's given so little plot substance that I reconsidered the breast thing as the perfect distraction from her dullness. Bernard and Nathalie, the couple of average Joes played by Gérard Jugnot and Josiane Balaso are the same: as dysfunctional as ever, but these times, they don't have youth as an excuse, they immediately get on our nerves. The same with divorced Jerome (Christian Clavier) wandering all through the film, Clavier is the most successful French comedian but he's not very comfortable as "one of six" anymore.
The rest of the cast are here: Martin Lamotte, Dominique Lavanant and Bruno Moynot, but you can take any ten minutes from the first two movies and they'll provide more genuine laughs than the whole of "Friends Forever". The film is a pointless series of "things happening for the sake of a gag". Worse, there's a degree of self-consciousness that makes it even more irritating. It's like they knew this was going to be a hit and the actors tried to make an artificial cult classic out of that certitude, by injecting some one-liners that feel totally artificial. Sometimes, you can almost hear a beat after a line, as if it's telling you that it's a joke, and it is supposed to make you laugh. Some lines are delivered with the sole intent of entering the half of fame of classic French quotes in the same vein that "I will conclude". But it lamentably fails.
The only thing the film got right is that it was going to be a commercial success, but what a splendid irony that one of the box-office champs of the last decade, garnering thrice more viewers than the first two put together was instantly disliked by everyone. It is a commercial success and a critical fail, people of all generations love "French Fried Vacation", whether they watched it in the theaters or grew up with and could recite them line by line, so they heightened their expectations when they saw that all the actors (even the director Patrice Leconte) were back on the road. If anything, the film worked because of the first two, but it didn't have the decency to return the compliment by respecting their "spirit". But could it really?
I said in previous reviews that the real trilogy ended with "Santa Claus is a Bastard", and one can even see a tetralogy with "Papy Fait de la Résistance". The Splendid Troop refreshed the air of French cinema in the 70's by making vulgar crass comedies with endearing and likable schmucks or losers, people the population could relate to. The torch was passed between the stage theater heritage of Bourvil and Fernandel and the aging Louis de Funès to the younger generation. Old school movies were getting lamer, a bit childish although not deprived of charm but the baby boomers gave French comedy a flavor that defined the 80's and 90's. And maybe what "Friends Forever" says is that they're now in the same position than those they dethroned, they lost their touch.
Each time defined a new 'vis comica'. And obviously, our favorite vacationers lost the touch with their era and didn't make enough an impact in that film. There were a few good scenes here and there but they never left an enduring impression, Bernard's son announces his homosexuality and then disappears, his father's reaction is hilarious until it turns into a ridiculous visual stroke. When a film must resort to slapstick and cheap gags involving dead dogs, big breasts, and botox lips exploding in a plane, you know this is not good.
But it is quite fitting that the film deals with plastic surgery, it feels like they really implanted what they thought would be good gags and funny jokes, but it really feels like botched surgery. It is a film of artificial and plastic ugliness
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