I guess obnoxious family films are annoying in every culture. Gaston Lagaffe is a French kid’s movie about an eccentric and lazy intern who winds up at a moderately successful start-up company that is trying to sell itself to a wealthy investor. The movie is an adaptation of the popular 1950’s comic strip of the same name. Unfortunately, I am unfamiliar with the original material but from what little I know they are concise comic strips of the titular character doing crazy stunts in an office environment. Which is exactly what the movie is, except much more annoying.
When I first came across this film at Fantasia Fest, it was oddly placed in the animation section. Obviously, I thought this was a mistake since it is obviously just live-action. That is until I saw it. To say this movie’s a cartoon is an understatement. The name of the company is “Letsgopotty,” there is a character named Ms. Giggles who does not speak but consistently mugs, and there are wacky CG animals. The scenes are highly saturated with color and the logic of the world just gets more and more outrageous. Finally, we have the protagonist who is by far one of the most irritating characters in any a family film. If one were to take a hipster, a slacker, Mr. Bean, and a creative engineer and combined them all together then you get Gaston Lagaffe.
Apologies it’s obvious that this review is coming off as a rambling mess but it’s difficult to stay on task with something so frustrating. Gaston Lagaffe is everything wrong with modern family films from the inconsideration of the plot to the use of remakes of classic songs. Almost every scene is just an excuse to have a “funny” set piece and every character is cranking it up to eleven. The whole movie just reeks of “oh well it’s just for kids.”
Okay, the rant is officially over so let’s get into some true criticism. What the film truly needed was contrast. From what little I gathered from the comics it was obvious that the main source of comedy was Gaston and his antics. Similiar to comic strips like Marmaduke, they were normally one-page illustrations where Gaston caused some sort of havoc. I already mentioned Mr. Bean and he is an appropriate comparison. While his movies have not been critically well-received they at least understood the central comedy of the subject. Mr. Bean is funny because he is a goofy character in a normal world and thus there is something to relate to. We can see the mundane get turned upside down through a series of intricate steps. This film, on the other hand, has goofiness on top of wackiness compiled together to make nonsense.
To add some light to this review there is one decent aspect which is Prunelle character. Prunelle is the manager of the company and the foil of Gaston. While he plays the stock “frustrated boss” character, he just seems to fit the scenario. There are some moments with him that are chuckle-worthy and his plight is actually understandable. If the rest of the film was toned down while Prunelle and Gaston were the only “wacky” ones then the situation would be much more palatable.
What else is there to discuss? Gaston Lagaffe is just bad. Just another half-hearted attempt to market to kids by adapting a classic property. It is unfortunate because, with such a beloved series, they could’ve done something interesting like Paddington or Adventures of Tintin. Alas, in the end, the filmmaking is just as manic and lazy as the title character so we end up with another Garfield.
Gaston Lagaffe is one of many films being presented at Fantasia Fest 2018.