Le Retour du grand blond

Le retour du grand blondSynopsis: Once more, innocent violinist Pierre Richard is up to his neck in espionage. Enemy spy boss Jean Rochefort, sore at how Richard inadvertently bollixed up his last caper, demands that the hapless musician be killed. In true “Good Soldier Schweik” fashion, Richard manages to avoid annihilation, never dreaming that anyone means him harm.

Mireille Darc is back as Richard’s “play horsie with me!” girl friend. Le retour du grand blond has some of the ambience of the 1965 spy spoof That Man from Rio, especially in its colorful Brazilian backdrops.

Le Retour du grand blond 5.25

eyelights: intriguing concept.
eyesores: lazy writing. childish humour. inconsistent/dumb characters.

In this barely enjoyable sequel to ‘Le Grand Blond avec une chaussure noire‘, Pierre Richard returns as François Perrin, the hapless violinist who got used as a patsy by his country’s espionage services. Also returning are all the principal cast from the first picture, aside from Bernard Blier, whose character died in the last film.

This time, Perrin is forced by the same operatives to come back to France and pretend that he is actually a dangerous secret agent working for them – in his case to save his paramour, who has been kidnapped, and, in their case, to shake off Capitaine Cambrai, a detective who plans to “out” their ‘Grand Blond’ operation.

Whereas the original ‘Grand Blond’ picture was enjoyable because its premise was rooted in the possible and didn’t stray too far from credulity, this new one defies all credibility: not only is it impossible for Cambrai to know what he claims to know, but the notion that he might have leverage over Colonel Toulouse, the head of the French secret service, is patently absurd.

Furthermore, Toulouse could easily have sabotaged Cambrai’s plans right from the onset: instead of saying that Perrin is a covert operative working for him, he could simply have told the Minister the truth – that it was all a misunderstanding. He could easily have proven that all attempts to find dirt on Perrin failed miserably, laughed it off and moved on.

But there would note have been a movie. Or, at least, the writers would have had to come up with a clever way to reel Perrin back in.

Instead, they dumbed down Colonel Toulouse and had him make one bad judgement after the next, getting caught in a web of his own spinning. Time and time again, Toulouse spends the picture doing really idiotic things to get out of trouble with the Minister (who is constantly being prompted by Cambrai), when all he has to do is speak the truth. Instead, he keeps being a dumb-@$$ and making his life a living hell.

Meanwhile, Perrin is wandering about in Rio de Janeiro, and unknowingly dodging Toulouse’s people, who are now trying to kill him off – before then being brought in by Toulouse and going through all sorts of ridiculously contrived scenarios to prove that he is the real thing. Obviously, Perrin is incapable of doing what is expected of him and much pratfalling takes place. Cue laughter.

It’s all so convoluted and forced that it’s not at all funny. Almost all of the characters are plied into situations they would never otherwise be in, acting out of character and making a total mess of the picture. I don’t know if this is because the writers crapped out an unexpected sequel in the face of the original’s sudden success, but they couldn’t even muster up the paltry amount of flair that they injected ‘Le Grand Blond avec une chaussure noire’ with.

I’m not even sure that anyone gave their all to this relatively short feature film, quite frankly:

– Pierre Richard fell into his more schticky Pierre Richard persona, becoming goofy, tripping all over himself whenever possible. He’s more cartoonish here, and it makes Perrin far less believable contextually, given that he’s dealing with high level politicians – at just one glance anyone should have known that he’s a putz, not an agent. (as a side note, in this film he ends up with a red shoe, not a black one. Perhaps this is what inspired the colour switch for the American version).

– Jean Rochefort pretty much scuttles Toulouse’s class and charisma from the first picture. As well, his ability to brush off the most moronic elements is nonexistent here. Or perhaps that ability is simply overwhelmed, given that even he has to act like a nitwit: his character has been given a lobotomy and he doesn’t make any sense contextually – he even shows up in most of the scenes, as though he were a field agent, when it’s obvious that he should be behind a desk, running the operation.

– Jean Carmet plays Maurice, Perrin’s best friend again, but he has precious little to do. He sleepwalks through the role, giving as much as is required of him – which is almost nothing. He doesn’t even bother to look the part: his character appears to have aged 15 years in the three short months between the two stories.

– Mireiile Darc alos has nothing to do here. She has been kidnapped, so she is background element for most of the picture. Before then, however, she frolicked ridiculously with Pierre Richard. And that’s about it. So much for the brilliant agent we had met in the first film. Gone as well, was her unique allure: here she is nothing more than a deeply-bleached blonde bimbo with a fake tan.

Frankly, ‘Le Retour du grand blond’ feels as though it were put together in haste with little consideration for consistency. It’s as though someone (the producers?) saw a quick way to make a buck and decided to just put together anything remotely connected to the ‘Le Grand Blond avec une chaussure noire’ while they could. Everyone came on board, including the original director and writers, but it’s an unfunny mess that tries too hard to be silly, light fun.

Unfortunately, in so doing, in their zeal to be livelier, they choked all the life out of the original formula.

Date of viewing: January 17+21, 2013

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