It is a cliché to say that it is easier for a comedian to excel in tragedy or drama than for a serious thespian to go funny. But, in general, it is also the truth. There are few examples of great tragedians or simply serious actors managing to "make'em laugh" (Greta Garbo in 'Ninotchka', Leslie Nielsen, John Malkovich, Jack Nicholson are well-known exceptions) while examples of the contrary abound. (Chaplin, Robin Williams, Bill Murray, Jim Carrey, Roberto Benigni, Heinz Rühmann , Coluche, Bourvil, Fernandel, Annie Cordy and many, many others). The reason may be that, in order to provoke smiles comedians must display enough sensibility to capture the flaws of their fellow-men, in other words to understand them before ridiculing them. Kad Merad (of 'Welcome to the Sticks' fame) is no exception to the rule. He has not only already proved that he could turn in a poignant dramatic performance (the father in 'Don't Worry, I'm Fine') but with 'Monsieur Papa' he shows as well that he can write (in this case with his wife Emmanuelle Cosso) and direct a moving film dealing with a serious subject, even if he does it with a light touch. 'Monsieur Papa,' whose starting point (an unemployed worker posing as a boy's adventurer father) and whose ill-chosen title may have discouraged part of the audiences fearing a campy bomb or a film reserved for children, is indeed nothing of a pure comedy with sight gags or funny dialogues. It is actually the study (both modest and relevant) of a few social issues (unemployment, divorce, single parenthood, ambition vs. family life) as well as the convincing psychological portrait of its three main characters (the sufferings of a fatherless boy, the coldness of a careerist single mother, the helplessness of a jobless man). Most of those who have not been misled by a preconceived judgment have enjoyed Kad Merad's first directing effort and look forward to seeing his next production. Avoiding like hell the easy way out (for instance capitalizing on his former success) Kad Merad has achieved the feat to give us a movie that is at the same time intelligent, sensitive and entertaining. Both as the director and the main actor of his film, he refrains from any type of overstatement and showing off, relying instead on a story and characters he sincerely believes in. He gets away with actor direction very well (Michèle Laroque in the difficult role of a "bad" mother ; young Gaspard Meier-Chaurand, amazingly natural as her twelve- year old son ; Myriam Boyer, as Kad's pathetic widow neighbor). As a helmer, Kad Merad has also managed to find locations in too often filmed Paris that prove exotic and challenging (the modern Chinese district) .
As could be expected, part of the critic leered. They just did not SEE the film and stuck to their prejudices. But if, unlike them, you accept to let yourself go, you will find this serious story charmingly told by a sensitive artist quite rewarding.