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From the very concept, "Camping" feels like the films marketed by a
cigar-smoking producer who knows what works and what doesn't.
Obviously, this isn't targeted for underground auteur theaters, it's
pure French popular cinema tailor-made for a popular audience. And even
the more sophisticated moviegoers, driven by a shadenfreude delight,
will find good reasons to go see how slobs having fun in campsites.
My suspicion rose when the main star of the film (half the publicity) was a popular comedian who made a famous sketch about a bizarre specimen of human race: the camper, walking in thongs, swimming trunks, colorful T-shirts and occasionally on his hand a glass of Pastis or a toilet roll. The actor is Franck Dubosc as Patrick Chirac (like the President) and in the poster, he's the one inviting us to join Campsite Blue Flows and its joyful family of regulars: Claude Brasseur and Mylène Demongeot as the veterans, Mathilde Seigner and Antoine Dulery as the dysfunctional couple and a former Weatherwoman from hip French channel "Canal +" who didn't have the same career as Louise Bourgoin and, if anything besides delighting our eyes, totally dates the film.
Naturally, there will be a newcomer to discover this crazy world, and to play the outsider's role, the handsome Gérard Lanvin as a successful plastic surgeon who just bought the James Bond car and takes his teen daughter for holidays in Spain. Since he doesn't strike as the kind of man to mix up with the common people, naturally, his car beaks down in the middle of the campsite, and it'll take time to find the right part. Serves him for being such a slob, like Patrick would say "I don't drive James Bond's car but at least, I can drive mine" This is Lanvin's lesson to learn, nothing we couldn't have seen coming, but let's not be harsh because the film was actually more enjoyable than its rather predictable premise.
Actually, I was surprised to learn that the 'camper' sketch wasn't the first inspiration, which shows since none of the gags (except a few one-liners) were used in the film. It was actually rather restrained as if the director and the writer were convinced about having such well-written characters that they didn't needed an avalanche of gags to make us laugh. Take Brasseur's curmudgeon, he checks the light before taking off, when he arrives, he lightly throw his thongs and puts his feet on and checks the time. We get it, the man is a regular, and everyone is cheering when he comes. There's one problem though he didn't see coming, now that the campsite works with Internet, his reservation had a little bug, and he doesn't have the site he used to have for 30 years.
This is funny already, and an actor of Brasseur's caliber doesn't need to overdo the reaction since the material is already convincing, and all his attempts to convince the sweet Dutch couple to switch the sites will provide some good moments and a very satisfying conclusion. "Camping" works most of the time thanks to this ability to never provide the expected, although some situations are (the outsider, the infidelity within the couple) it's in the treatment that the film confines to realism and even social commentary. Lanvin finds the right balance between diplomacy and cold politeness and the actor exudes such charisma that we never really find him dislikable even though that's what the story tries to make him look like. And that's the secret of "Camping", the actors' acting contradicts the script for the film's own good. And even the editing is well-done, once you ask yourself, "by the way, what has become of this guy", bingo, the next scene features him.
I have two reservations though. First of all, I know the teen daughter serves the plot for one or two particular cases, I didn't like the fact that she never answered for the sleeping drug she put on her father's glass, but I did like the moment where he slapped her, because she insulted him in a bus, here's a cliché situation that was realistically handled by a good actor. But to match this actor, there should have been a stronger personality in that girl, and the script, instead of helping her, makes her look duller and cliché, with an obligatory (and random) romance whose only purpose is to show how out of touch Daddy is. The daughter should've been a key character, instead of a foil. The film could've done without her.
Less disposable, was the character of Patrick. Dubosc is a likable and sympathetic actor, but he overplays it as if it was an extended sketch, which isn't bad in a certain type of comedy, except when everybody is acting natural. I get it he's an entertainer, but acting wise, compared to the others, he was actually in Lanvin's shoes, not his thongs. Such an irony for a film that centered its marketing campaign on him!
As we say about night, "let's sleep on it", and holidays plays the same role with our daily problems, and a campsite can be an interesting place to question our life and try to change it for the best. It looks totally contrived, yet the merit of "Camping" is to make it feel real and warm, and it doesn't take a lot of effort to be funny. And like they say, a good story with a few laughs is always better than a meaningless thing trying too hard to make you laugh.
The same year saw the released of the third opus of the iconic "Bronzés" series, but despite its commercial success, the film was a critical flop, and one that audience quickly forgot. 10 years later, we still remember "Camping" and it also spanned a sequel, and for some reason, I think this is going to be remembered as a classic even in 10 years. Not without reasons.
I come on IMDb for more than 10 years, i can't believe this good movie has a so poor score here. It's the first time I come to write on IMDb, I just want to say that this movie is very good. First it's funny, OK maybe some french jokes can only be appreciated by french people, I don't know. Second it reminds the good holiday atmosphere that we all had experienced at least one time in our life during our childhood, or later. And third, and it's the more important, it's what's make this movie bigger than it seems, it's show the difference between poor people and rich people. I can't say more because I don't want to write any spoilers, but for me the score of this movie should be between 6 and 8, not at all under 5. Especially when we know that Franck Dubosc (Patrick, in the movie) had also a poor life when he was kid, which make him perfect in this role. I have already watched hundreds and hundreds of movies in my life, this one really belong to the one I like to watch more than one time (and they are not so many movies that are worth to watch more than once in my opinion) and to recommend to my friends.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's reasonable to suppose that the overwhelming success earlier this year of Les Bronzes 3 is the reason for this quick domestic version and, it has to be said, however obvious and in-yer-face this is nevertheless a huge box-office smash in France. Go figure. The plot - and I use the word loosely - has cosmetic surgeon Michel (Gerard Lanvin) driving to the South of France with daughter Vanessa (Armonie Sanders) in his top-of-the-line limo which breaks down mysteriously and coincidentally right next to the Flots Bleu campsite where all the regular punters who go each year are assembled. Naturally it's impossible to fix the car until Lanvin has had sufficient time to bond with the common herd - and take part in a running joke in which women keep flashing their boobs at him for his professional opinion. The likes of Claude Brasseur, Mylene Demongeot and Mathilde Seigner keep us watching but whilst he has charm and menace to spare Lanvin is not a natural comedian and he gets top billing. Nuff said.
This vehicle chiefly destined to highlight the humorist Franck Dubosc
whose irresistible one-man shows partly revolved around his experiences
as a camper flocked millions of French viewers in the French theaters
(more than about 5 millions). Dubosc was the main attraction and from a
popular standpoint, the experience galvanized him to work with the
director Fabien Onteniente for his stale "Disco" (2008).
However, from an artistic perspective, "Camping" will never revolutionize French comedy. Actually, it's a comedy in which one never really laughs even if several cues or sequences make smile. I dig the moments when Dubosc introduces his tent and the rules of life to Gérard Lanvin and his wife. The latter comes from an upper-class milieu and because his car broke down, has no other choice than to stay for a few days in a camp with French common people. As Pulp sang in their terrific song: "you'll never do what common people do", that's exactly the same with him. Anyway, the tenet of a man who has to cope with a new world is so hackneyed that Onteniente doesn't try to renew it. His film accumulates the different predictable links of the chain of the story following an ultra-mapped scheme. Ditto for the other campers whose "problems" make me yawn. Too bad for Mathilde Seigner and Claude Brasseur who deserve better than this. At best, Onteniente tries to follow other narrative directions but quickly gives them up.
Lanvin offers a wooden acting and Dubosc gives us his little act but in a more subdued way than in his shows. His aficionados may want to watch this corny piece of work and it's perhaps the category of viewers the film is mostly destined to.
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