'Tanguy Is Back' ('Tanguy, le retour'): Film Review

Tanguy is Back Still 1 -SND Publicity-H 2019
Courtesy of SND
Don’t come back soon.

The crew and cast return for a sequel to 'Tanguy,' the 2001 hit French comedy about a spoiled man-child who refuses to leave home.

Sometimes it’s a good idea to make a sequel, or resurrect a franchise, years after the fact. And sometimes it’s the equivalent of digging up a rotting corpse, forcing it back to life and then prancing it in front of the camera for 90 agonizing minutes.

Such is the case with Tanguy Is Back (Tanguy, le retour), a woefully unfunny follow-up to the 2001 comedy Tanguy that was a French box-office hit and national phenomenon — so much so that the film’s title became a sociological term known as the “Tanguy syndrome,” used to describe the state of its lead character: a spoiled twenty-something man-child who refuses to move out of his parents’ apartment. (It’s known as the Boomerang Generation in English. See also: Step Brothers.)

If the original film — which, like this one, was co-written and directed by comedie populaire guru Etienne Chatiliez (Life Is a Long Quiet River, Happiness Is in the Field) — now feels mildly amusing in places and completely outdated in others, the sequel is so painful to sit through that it is best illustrated by the script’s main running gag, which involves one character’s recurring prostate problems.

Other comic gems feature a teenage girl getting pregnant (her granddad calls her a “little whore”), and people of different ages, including said teenager, having loud sex in another room. There are also jokes that, while probably not deliberately racist, underscore the horror that two retired Frenchies face when a Chinese family moves into their home. If the white-nationalist believers in the grand remplacement theory — whereby foreigners will gradually replace pure-blooded Frenchmen and take over the land — are looking for a movie to sponsor, Tanguy Is Back may be the one.

In the first pic, the 20ish nerd-boy Tanguy (Eric Berger, returning with other key castmembers) was an overeducated Sinophile much happier living with his mom, Edith (Sabine Azema), and his dad, Paul (Andre Dussollier), than on his own. This caused beaucoup problems for his initially kind and increasingly irritated folks, who tried every scheme imaginable to get Tanguy out of the house. In the end, they finally convinced him to move to China, where he happily settled down.

Unhappily for us, Tanguy shows up in Paris nearly two decades later for the sequel, separated from his native Chinese wife, Mei Lin (Weiting Chao), and strapped with their teen daughter, Zhu (Emilie Yili Kang). His parents willingly take them into their home, nursing the lovesick Tanguy and enrolling Zhu in a nearby high school. But what if Tanguy is getting too comfortable being coddled all over again? And what if Zhu is, gulp, "doing it"?

What follows is one of the lamer, lazier comedies to hit French screens this year (and it’s only April, folks). After a setup that takes nearly half an hour until the inevitable Tanguy syndrome sets in, every single joke the filmmakers toss out lands with a total thud. Or perhaps that’s the just sound of moneybags being thrown at the feet of Chatiliez and his team for undertaking such a shameless cash grab of a movie. (Despite its awfulness, Tanguy 2 pulled in close to 500,000 admissions during its first week of release.)

Dussollier and Azema, who are otherwise terrific actors and veterans of films by the late Alain Resnais, seem to be nobly suffering through this enterprise like two aging show horses horses being escorted to the glue factory. Dussollier, especially, is slapped with a litany of embarrassing gags involving Paul's urination issues, and constantly has to pee — or try to pee — at home, on the golf course and ultimately in a hospital bed.

Without spoiling Tanguy Is Back’s ending, which descends into outright xenophobia (again, probably not on purpose), one of the final jokes involves Dussollier attempting to do his business in a portable urinal bottle as the helpful Zhu stands by his side. It’s the perfect metaphor for a film that is at once brainlessly offensive and piss-poor.

Production companies: Nac Films, SND, SNC, M6 Films
Cast: Sabine Azema, Andre Dussollier, Eric Berger, Emilie Yili Kang, Weiting Chao, Nicolas Tang
Director: Etienne Chatiliez
Screenwriters: Etienne Chatiliez, Laurent Chouchan
Producers: Antoine Pezet, Jerome Corcos
Director of photography: Guillaume Deffontaines
Production designer: Jose Luis Casas Serrano
Costume designer: Elisabeth Tavernier
Editor: Catherine Renault
Composer: Pascal Andreacchio
Casting director: Pierre-Jacques Benichou
Sales: SND

In French
93 minutes