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Review: Le Petit Nicolas

Title: Le Petit Nicolas
Directors: Amandine Fredon, Benjamin Massoubre
Starring: Alain Chabat, Laurent Lafitte, Simon Faliu
MPAA Rating: G
Runtime: 1 hr 25 mins

What It Is: The story of Nicolas, a young boy who lives a childhood full of joy and learning in between camaraderie, arguments, fights, pranks and games – told through the eyes of his creators René Goscinny and Jean Jacques Sempé as their stories intertwine

What We Think: What an incredible labor of love we have here. Having known nothing about this film except for its title, I was blown away by such a touching tale about friendship, artistry and youth. I made a lot of discoveries while watching it, and I’m sure you will too. Not only does the film introduce the (very well known in France) Petite Nicolas comic strip-turned short story, it also tells the story of its creators René and Jean Jacques – how both their stories and their lives evolved over the years from the early 50’s to the late 70’s.

After reading quite a bit about how this film came to be, I was dazzled by the decision to turn the previously planned documentary-style telling of this story into a fully animated biography. It would’ve been quite jarring to switch from the beautifully drawn and animated imagery to real life people talking. The animation itself, coupled with Ludovic Bource’s authentic score, is blooming with charm and a style that, as I’ve read in interviews with the filmmakers, harkens very close to the original visions of Goscinny and Sempé.

Not only does this introduce Le Petit Nicolas to a broader (hopefully international) audience, but also French animation as a whole, which is something I would very much like to explore after having seen this. The Sunday morning comic art style is injected with such a pleasantly vibrant accent, brought to life in a way that really does translate how still images from a comic art style can sometimes move around in one’s brain. And boy, does this story make you reflect on how impactful something as simple as a little boy playing with his friends and getting into trouble was for the people who laughed at those misadventures, and for the two men who conveyed them through their own personal lives.

Our Grade: A; A wonderful treat for all ages, Le Petit Nicolas is a film that brings more to the table than just its 90 minute runtime. It brings history, different art forms, and most of all a bridge between cultures in celebration of René Goscinny and Jean Jacques Sempé’s distinctive vision. Catch this one wherever you can!

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