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Father and Guns -- Film Review

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SANTA BARBARA -- It's easy to see why the French-Canadian "Father and Guns" ("De pere en flic") is going the American remake route as a Kathleen Kennedy-Frank Marshall production for Sony Pictures.

A can't-miss buddy comedy about a pair of dysfunctional father-son cops who are forced to go undercover at a touchy-feely bonding retreat, the genuinely amusing hybrid would make a swell Bruce Willis vehicle.

While the original is still without a U.S. distributor, it already made a big splash north of the border as Canada's highest-grossing (about $11 million) French-language film.

As "les flics" in question, Michel Cote is Jacques Laroche, the aging tough guy, whose indecisive son Marc (Louis-Jose Houde) has never been all that he can be as far as his old man's concerned.

Turns out their constant bickering makes them convincing candidates to stake out a woodsy father-son rehab facility attended by an infamous defense lawyer (Remy Girard), for a vicious biker gang known as The Blood Machine.

In the process of hopefully getting the attorney to spill the whereabouts of a fellow kidnapped officer, Laroche pere et fils get caught up in the assorted primal tree-hugging and mud-wrestling activities, repairing their strained relationship along the way.

While the film can't quite sustain its inspired first hour, director Emile Gaudreault ("Mambo Italiano") and co-writer Ian Lauzon manage to mine some seriously funny bits from the old formulaics.

Although some of the references will be lost on those unfamiliar with Quebec politics, the give-and-take chemistry between actor-comedians Cote (who reminds one of a French-Canadian James Caan) and Houde packs universal appeal.

When preparing the American version it's ultimately going to be that sort of creative casting, even more than the scripting, that will ensure "Father and Guns" doesn't get lost in translation.

Venue: Santa Barbara International Film Festival
Production companies: Cinemaginaire
Cast: Michel Cote, Louis-Jose Houde, Remy Girard
Director: Emile Gaudreault
Screenwriter: Emile Gaudreault, Ian Lauzon
Producers: Denise Robert, Daniel Louis
Director of photography: Bruce Chun
Production designer: Emmanuel Frechette
Music: FM Le Sieur
Costume designer: Ginette Magny
Editor: Jean-Francois Bergeron
No MPAA Rating, 106 minutes