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PARIS — “Marriages in our family only work out the second time around,” is how one character explains the premise behind the French rom-com, Fly Me to the Moon (Un plan parfait). However, the same cannot really be said for this sophomore collaboration between director Pascal Chaumeil and screenwriters Laurent Zeitoun and Yoann Gromb, who provide a pitch and a couple of gags reminiscent of their 2010 breakout hit, Heartbreaker, but ultimately wind up with a middlebrow, continent-hopping comedy whose heart and humor are never quite in the right place.
With a cast topped by Dany Boon (Welcome to the Sticks) and Diane Kruger (Inglourious Basterds), this Universal France release should see strong numbers at home and plenty of exposure throughout Francophonia. French fests and film weeks will also be takers, while a probable U.S. pickup won’t quite reach the levels of the team’s previous effort, which charmed up over $500K on the art house circuit.
While Heartbreaker featured a professional seducer who ultimately falls for his high-class target, Moon tackles an awfully similar plot from the opposite angle: Isabelle (Kruger) is a pitch-perfect blond whose relationship with her dentist partner, Pierre (Robert Plagnol), has all the makings of a flawless love story. The only snag is that the women in Isabelle’s family suffer from a curse whereby their first marriage always turns out to be disastrous, while the second one is golden. (This is all explained over a Christmas dinner that’s used as a framing device for the story.)
As ridiculous as this all sounds, Isabelle is nonetheless convinced that she needs to marry and divorce another guy before she can tie the knot with Pierre. When a plan to do this in Copenhagen fails, she sets her sights on the eccentric schlub Jean-Yves (Boon), who she tags along with on a short trip to Kenya, where he’s scouting sites for the French tourist guidebook, Le Routard.
These Africa-set sequences are among the film’s most disappointing, dredging up the usual safari clichés and revealing how little chemistry the two leads seem to share (the fact that Boon is a decade older than Kruger doesn’t exactly help matters). Nonetheless, Isabelle manages to succeed in her task, marrying her prey in a tribal ceremony and quickly ditching him at the airport once they arrive back home.
It’s at this point that Chaumeil and his scribes add some spice to the intrigue, because despite the unbearable loser that is Jean-Yves, Isabelle can’t help feeling a bit sorry for him. When he pops back into the picture (in an outré dental scene involving large doses of Novacaine), she tries to push the divorce through but soon finds herself torn between two men: her model fiancé and her wildcard husband.
Although the narrative never convinces in the long run — for instance, some may wonder why Isabelle doesn’t just pay another stranger to marry her instead of jumping through all those hoops with Jean-Yve s— it warms up when the characters shed their cartoonish personas to reveal a more human side to themselves. Still, there’s something rather unappealing, not to mention grossly un-feminist, about a woman willing to go to bitchy extremes just to thwart a superstition about her marriage and baby plans, making Isabelle someone you don’t necessarily care to root for.
The fact that Kruger portrays her character with a certain kind of iciness doesn’t help matters, and it’s much harder to grow attached to her duo with the upbeat Boon than it was to the Romain Duris–Vanessa Paradis combo in Heartbreaker. If anything, the pity Isabelle expresses for Jean-Yves eventually stretches to her as well, and the film works best as a portrait of two opposites who come together out of empathy, rather than out of love.
Tech credits are polished, while the hefty €26M ($33M) co-production gets plenty of mileage out of locations stretching from Nairobi to Moscow to the finer parts of Paris.
Production companies: Quad, TF1 Films Production, Scope Pictures, Les Productions du Ch’Timi, Chaocorp Distribution, Yeardawn, in association with Universal Pictures International France
Cast: Diane Kruger, Dany Boon, Alice Pol, Robert Plagnol, Jonathan Cohen
Director: Pascal Chaumeil
Screenwriters: Laurent Zeitoun, Yoann Gromb, based on an original idea by Philippe Mechelen
Producers: Nicolas Duval Adassovksy, Yann Zenou, Laurent Zeitoun
Director of photography: Glynn Speeckaert
Production designer: Hervé Gallet
Music: Klaus Badelt
Costume designer: Véronique Perier
Editor: Dorian Rigal-Ansous
No rating, 104 minutes
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