Quick: Name a president who likes to talk trash, eat junk food, watch lots of TV, make decisions entirely based on instinct, spew out vague populist ideas, unwittingly invite someone to write a tell-all book about his administration and, also, has a swath of orange-ish hair.
If your answer is Monsieur Jeff Tuche, then you’re correct!
Make France Great Again.
As the key figure in Les Tuche 3, the third film in the highly popular French franchise, Jeff (Jean-Paul Rouve) — a country bumpkin with bad manners but a good heart — finds himself thrust into the highest office in the land, moving his hillbilly family from their modest rural dwelling in the south to the Elysee Palace in Paris. Lots of shenanigans thus ensue, with returning director Olivier Baroux applying his usual approach to comedy: If a joke doesn’t work once, try it another four or five times until you kill it.
For fans of the other Tuche films — which, collectively, have raked in over 6 million admissions in France — there’s much of the same happening here, although this movie makes some mild attempts at political satire and feels less offensive than the previous ones, offering a few decent laughs. Released Thursday on local screens, where it scored one of the highest-grossing opening days in history, Les Tuche 3 may even surpass its predecessors — if not in terms of quality, then at least in popularity.
Adapting a similar rags-to-riches plot as the first two installments (the debut film had the poor Tuche clan winning the lottery and moving to Monaco; the second had them visiting the U.S.), this one starts off with a quick introduction to Jeff and the rest of his family, including: French fry-cooking wife, Cathy (Isabelle Nanty); alcoholic punk rock mom, Mamie Suze (Claire Nadeau); affectionate if dumb-as-nails daughter Stephanie (Sarah); Vanilla Ice-wannabe gay son Will, aka Tuche Daddy (Pierre Lottin); and the somewhat normal if sex-obsessed teenage boy Donald aka Quack-Quack (Theo Fernandez).
They’re a generally happy bunch that likes to have fun together, with much of the script’s humor revolving around the disconnect between their trashy, trailer-park ways and what the French still consider to be good etiquette. That it required five credited writers (including Baroux) to come up with this stuff remains somewhat of a mystery, especially since the same gags are repeated over and over again: Tuche Daddy talks in a whiny Autotuned voice that’s supposed to make us laugh but never does; Mamie Suze is so sloshed that she requires her own subtitles; and yes, every single joke surrounding Cathy is about how seriously she takes her French fries. (For the latter, the filmmakers run out of material about halfway through the movie, but then keep on going for the hell of it.)
If subtlety is definitely not the film’s forte, then at least some of the political commentary feels time-sensitive, with a storyline that has small-town mayor Jeff becoming president because nearly every other candidate is disqualified during the run-up to election day. At least one direct reference is made to 2016 conservative hopeful Francois Fillon, whose presidential chances were quashed by a scandal involving salary payouts to his wife and children. And of course, the fact that an outsider like Jeff winds up winning is clearly a nod to the victories of both Donald Trump in the U.S. and Emmanuel Macron in France — although Jeff really feels much closer to the former, especially when it comes to his level of civility.
The sequence where he debates the incumbent candidate (Philippe Magnan) on live TV is probably one of the better bits, and there are a few amusing scenes involving the Tuches trying to settle into their fancy new digs in Paris. But even there, Baroux keeps bludgeoning us with repetition.
For instance, when Jeff arrives at the presidential palace for the first time, he’s wearing a fanny pack. It’s a detail that can make you laugh once, but the director comes back to it in on several occasions, underlining the fact that, in France, a fanny pack is called a banane (banana). So of course there will be a gag later on where Jeff pulls a banana out of his fanny pack…dude, we got it the first time.
This is the level of comedy that the Tuche movies operate on, and it’s neither a sophisticated nor a particularly funny one. Yet these films have, and will continue to be, vastly successful in France. They also bear both a comic and thematic resemblance to the 2008 Gallic box-office smash Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis (whose sequel is due out at the end of this month), as well as to the Camping franchise, which has had an extremely lucrative run as well.
All of these movies derive their humor from poking fun at stereotypical French rednecks (or ploucs or beaufs, in local slang) in either tender (Camping, Ch’tis) or not-so-tender (Les Tuche) ways. Ironically, they also play very well to rural and non-Parisian audiences — in other words, to some of the very viewers being mocked onscreen. Perhaps that’s why such films are referred to locally, and often pejoratively, as comedies populaires: They offer audiences the chance not to laugh at them, but with them.
That said, laughs are rather few and far between in this episode, which, at least, has the merit of clocking in at only 92 minutes and flies by quickly enough. Tech credits are fine for a purported €10 million ($12 million) budget, even if everything, including all the ritzy Paris locations, comes across as a tad overlit and vulgar. Call it the Tuche touch.
Production companies: Eskwad, Pathe
Cast: Jean-Paul Rouve, Isabelle Nanty, Claire Nadeau, Pierre Lottin, Theo Fernandez, Scaly Delpeyrat
Director: Olivier Baroux
Screenwriters: Philippe Mechelen, Julien Herve, Nessim Chikhaoui, Jean-Paul Rouve, Olivier Baroux
Producer: Richard Grandpierre
Executive producer: Frederic Doniguian
Director of photography: Christian Abomnes
Production designer: Perine Barre
Costume designer: Sandra Gutierrez
Editor: Flora Volpeliere
Composer: Martin Rappeneau