Le Sens de la Fête (C’est La Vie) – Eric Toledano, Olivier Nakache

Since the huge success both at home and internationally of Intouchables, Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache have struggled to find another hit of the same magnitude  And it’s unlikely this tepid, patchy comedy is the answer. It’s an ensemble piece with some fine acting notably from Jean-Pierre Bacri as the owner of a wedding planning business. He’s in good company with Gilles Lellouche, Jean-Paul Rouve, Benjamin Lavernhe of La Comédie Française and the film should be greater than the sum of it parts, but the laughs are slow in coming. It’s partly down to the format. The film follows Max and his employees as they organise a lavish wedding for a demanding groom set in a magnificent 17th century château. The film dips in and out of the action as the day progresses giving a feeling of a series of short sketches held together by the wedding arc with some scenes more successful than others.

Max has been organising weddings for decades and is ready for a change. This weekend it’s a sumptuous wedding for Pierre (Lavernhe) and Héléna (Judith Chemla). As usual Max has everything under control and conducts his chefs, serving staff, musicians, etc with impeccable timing except events never go exactly as planned as Max soon discovers.

Some set-pieces play out better than others. Lellouche stepping into the role of a cheesy wedding singer is a joy to watch likewise Lavernhe as the arrogant, overbearing groom who drips insincerity. Or Vincent Macaigne as Max’s brother-in-law, a depressed, pedantic, former teacher who is secretly in love with the bride.

Less convincing is Rouve’s down-at-heel wedding photographer or Kevin Azais as the off-duty policeman moonlighting as a waiter. Both characters lack subtelty and are crushingly unfunny.  There were a number of reasons why Intouchables was a success  – there is now an American remake of the film with Kevin Hart in Omar Sy’s role and Bryan Cranston as his paraplegic boss – not least the spark between Sy and Cluzet. And there is a trace of that magic here in Bacri’s interaction with his hot-tempered assistant Adèle (Eye Haidara) or his jealous girlfriend Josiane (Suzanne Clément).  When night falls and the guests begin to party, the action picks up with a genuinely comical scene when the groom’s attempt to surprise his bride goes hilariously wrong. But it all feel too little, too late.

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