Welcome to the South -- Film Review

Like its predecessor, the Italian remake of France’s biggest hit ever keeps its comedy broad and the box office takings even broader

ROME —"Welcome to the South" (Benvenuti al Sud) has grossed over 30 million euros, so far the best-performing film of the year in Italy. No amount of Harry Potter magic is likely to oust the comedy of cultural clichés from the top of the 2010 box office.

The triumph of this remake is less surprising than the success of the French original, Welcome to the Sticks, if for no other reason than we’ve already seen the story’s audience appeal.

It makes sense that the first remake of Dany Boon’s biggest box-office hit ever in France should come from Italy. With its dozens of dialects and north-south divide, the country is a goldmine of cultural ignorance. The international takings won’t be as high as its predecessor’s but as broad as it is, the comedy is subtler and even more enjoyable in director Luca Miniero’s hands.

The story, however, is virtually identical: Frustrated postal manager Alberto (Claudio Bisio) is looking for a transfer to the city of his dreams, Milan, but is banished instead to a hole-in the-wall branch in the south. So terrified is the family of “down under” that Alberto’s wife (Angela Finnocchiaro) stays behind with their son.

Alberto arrives in a tiny town by the sea near Naples in a bulletproof vest and armed with typical northern Italian clichés about the south – it’s unbearably hot, dirty and full of thieves and killers. Of course, he’s won over by the warm and friendly locals, especially the postman (Alessandro Siani, the best of the bunch) and a postal clerk (Valentina Lodovini), who harbor a secret love for one another and who teach Alberto some of the impregnable local dialect.

The film requires much suspension of disbelief – apparently no one up north watches TV to know that chickens no longer run free in Italian villages ­­– but it’s perfectly entertaining if silly fun.

Boon, who executive produced, makes a cameo.

Production companies: Medusa Film, Cattleya, Constantin Film Production.
Sales: Pathe International
Cast: Claudio Bisio, Alessandro Siani, Angela Finnocchiaro, Valentina Lodovini, Giacomo Rizzo, Nando Peone, Teco Celio, Naike Rivelli
Director: Luca Miniero
Screenwriter: Massimo Gaudioso
Based on the original screenplay by: Dany Boon, Alexandre Charlot, Franck Magnier
Producers: Riccardo Tozzi, Giovanni Stabilini, Marco Chimenz, Dany Boon
Director of photography: Paolo Carnera
Production designer: Paola Comencini
Music: Umberto Scipione
Costume designer: Sonoo Mishra
Editor: Valentina Mariani
No rating, 107 minutes