Do I count this as a 2017 or a 2016 release? As far as I know, this French animated film didn’t come out in the US until recently, yet it’s nominated for Best Animated Film in the 2017 Oscars. I’m sure it was released in Europe some time ago, but this just seems a little too delayed. Well… I’ve decided to count it as a 2017 release because that’s when it was released in theatres around me, despite the Oscars.
In any case, this looks like a very interesting film. First off, I love stop-motion. I think it’s the most impressive animation style. One would think it has it’s limits, it forces the teams behind them to get creative with the stories and what they animate. While I’m sure bad stop-motion animated films exist, I haven’t seen or even heard of one. This definitely looks unique. It isn’t played up like a comedy, but rather on the dramatic side about a young boy who has to be put in an orphanage while his mother isn’t around. He is surrounded by other orphan kids. Some he doesn’t get along with, one he develops a crush on, all that good stuff. Were I to hazard a guess, the story is most likely going to be really emotional and depict how these orphan kids band together and become their own family, helping each other get through their own personal problems. I mean, it’s nominated for an Oscar. If I’m not crying at some point in this movie, it’s over-rated.
Since I’m not overly familiar with foreign films or filmmakers, I’ll just mention the American voice talent going into this. Voicing the titular character Zucchini is Erick Abbate, known for TOUCHED WITH FIRE (2015), and TV shows THE MYSTERIES OF LAURA and Netflix’s DAREDEVIL. Other talents include Ellen Page (TALLULAH , X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST , and SUPER ), Nick Offerman (THE FOUNDER , SING , and HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2 ), and Will Forte (KEANU , MACGRUBER , and TV show THE LAST MAN ON EARTH).
Overall, I’m looking forward to this. Some nice looking animation and a serious story. I won’t lie, I think the character designs look… morbid and strange, but if I can open my heart to Aardman Animations, which has some silly-looking character designs, there’s room for a French look. I think I’m going to enjoy this one.
This is my honest opinion of: MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI/MA VIE DE COURGETTE
Zucchini is a nine-year-old boy, living with a single drunken mother and no father to speak of. Building a pyramid out of the many beer bottles lying around their home, Zucchini accidentally makes a mess, which angers his mother. She attempts to go to his room, threatening to beat him, but out of fear, he closes the door on her and she falls down, dead. Taken to an orphanage by a kindly police officer named Raymond, he doesn’t quite fit in with the others at first, especially since he’s made fun of for his name by Simon, the boy who presumes himself the boss of the kids. After several attempts to get Zucchini to tell him why he’s with them fail, he steals Zucchini’s beloved self-made kite. This enrages Zucchini and the two begin to fight. Afterward, the two become friends and Zucchini is soon accepted by the others as well. Not long later, a new girl comes to the orphanage, named Camille, whom Zucchini develops a cutsie relationship with. Bonds are forged from their similar lives as these children learn what it means to grow up too fast, but learn to open their hearts to each other.
I didn’t just enjoy this, I thoroughly loved this film. Never in my life have I seen a movie like this. It’s the perfect blend of innocent, yet not. Light-hearted, yet dark. Depressive, yet fun. It’s one of the most unique animated films I’ve ever seen. I should also make a point to mention that I don’t think this movie is for kids. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not rated R, or anything. It’s not laced in foul-language or nudity, it’s not an adult-only movie, but it’s very mature. It deals in very heavy themes and ideas that young kids may not be able to understand or handle very well. So please, parents, do your research about this PG-13 movie and I hope that I can shed some light on that in this review.
Making good on what parents should expect this movie to be like, it pretty much opens on this nine-year-old kid killing his mom. It’s on accident, so don’t freak out, but… a kid kills his mom. In the orphanage, we learn that one of the kids witnessed her father murder her mom, and then committed suicide, and was under the care of an aunt who was abusive to her and later on only wants her in her care for money. One kid’s dad is in prison, another had parents who did drugs, and another was molested… or worse… by her father. Yeah, this is not a kid’s movie. Now, let me be clear again, nothing is explicitly said in graphic detail. There’s no disturbing imagery to depict what happened to these children. It’s simply the implication that can be disturbing to anyone who may not have been exposed to something like this before, especially little kids.
But make no mistake, this is a fantastic movie. The story never dwells on these harsh ideas for long. They serve as a foundation to understand what kind of world these kids are from. Instead, we see how their pasts reflect who they are, and how they do have something in common with each other. A big theme of the movie is that they have no one to love them, but they are their own little family. It’s truly heart-warming to see them bond and interact with each other.
I won’t lie, it’s very hard to talk about this film. It’s one of those rare phenomenons that’s left me struggling to find the right words. Maybe on some deep level I’m a little disappointed that I wasn’t left in tears by the end. I don’t know. I mean, I was left profoundly affected by it, I just don’t know how. Maybe that’s what I’m meant to feel. This movie felt real, despite the stop-motion animation. Sometimes, the most important feelings we get don’t have a name to them. It might take some time for this to digest completely and maybe I’ll have something to say by then. But for now, I know for certain that this is a wonderful bit of animation with great and memorable characters. I highly recommend seeing this. Drop what you’re doing and find the next showtime for this if it’s playing near you. I promise, it’s worth the money, the drive, and definitely worth it’s Oscar nomination.
My honest rating for MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI/MA VIE DE COURGETTE: 5/5