A French public servant from Provence is banished to the far North. Strongly prejudiced against this cold and inhospitable place, he leaves his family behind to relocate temporarily there, with the firm intent to quickly come back.
Although living a comfortable life in Salon-de-Provence, a charming town in the South of France, Julie has been feeling depressed for a while. To please her, Philippe Abrams, a post office administrator, her husband, tries to obtain a transfer to a seaside town, on the French Riviera, at any cost. The trouble is that he is caught red-handed while trying to scam an inspector. Philippe is immediately banished to the distant unheard of town of Bergues, in the Far North of France. Leaving his child and wife behind, the crucified man leaves for his frightening destination, a dreadfully cold place inhabited by hard-drinking, unemployed rednecks, speaking an incomprehensible dialect called Ch'ti. Philippe soon realizes that all these ideas were nothing but prejudices and that Bergues is not synonymous with hell...Written by
Fish-out-of-water stories have almost unlimited potential. There's no limit to the quirks you can give to the inhabitants of the place where the hero winds up. "Welcome to the Sticks" is one of those movies, and the odd inhabitants of the Bergues (specifically the post office workers), make for a charming and unexpected comedy.
Phillippe Abrams (Kal Merad) is a post office manager, and his job requires him to move every few years. He really wants to move south, where it is warmer, but after a failed attempt to cheat his way there, he is shipped up north instead--not a good thing because of its hellish reputation. When he gets there though, he realizes that not everything is what he thought it would be.
Kal Merad is terrific as Phillippe. He's a good man who is open to new ideas, once he realizes what they are. However, he's no Jim Carrey; his attempts at pratfalls and neuroses fall flat. Fortuantely, though, that's not all he's required to do. He's easily likable because he acts in a way anyone else would. Dany Bloom, despite wearing three hats (actor, co-writer, and director) makes Antoine a lovable character. He's frequently funny, and always sympathetic right from the get-go. When he's troubled, we feel sad. When he's being funny, we always laugh. Anne Marivin is adorable as Antoine's love interest, and Zoe Felix is always believable as Phillippe's cynical wife who won't believe her husband.
The main problem is that for the first forty minutes, "Welcome to the Sticks" is flat. There are laughs to be sure, but I laughed because I knew I was supposed to laugh, not because what just happened was especially funny. After that, though, the film finds its groove and brings about a lot of laughs, including two flat-out hilarious sequences. Of course, one has to accept a huge plot device to get some of the humor, but that's not hard because the film's earnest and likable tone makes you want to go along with the flow.
The film's major asset is it's charm, and that makes it easier to swallow everything that happens in it. Special credit has to go to Dany Boon for accomplishing this and keeping it consistent throughout the film.
However flat the first part of the movie might be, the better part of the movie is good enough to warrant a viewing.
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