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French Films…that don’t suck: “Rien à Déclarer”

Rien à Déclarere film poster

In 2008 Dany Boon’s comedy “Bienvenue Chez Les Ch’tis” was a surprise box office hit that went onto become the top-grossing French film of all time (and neither Catherine Deneuve nor Gerard Depardieu were even in it). He also wrote, directed and starred in his latest comedy, “Rien à Déclarer”. But can it possibly live up to its predecessor?

Dany Boon plays Mathias Ducatel, a French border guard in a dinky little town on the Franco-Belgian border, circa 1993, when the European borders are about to open. His nemesis, the rabidly Francophobic Belgian border guard Ruben Vandevoorde is played convincingly by the Belgian actor Benoît Poelvoorde. Because Mathias has been secretly dating Ruben’s sister Louise for a year, he agrees to his boss’s request to join Ruben in the first Franco-Belgian police unit to catch drug smugglers once the border opens. Thus, hilarity ensues when the two sworn enemies are placed in a pathetic patrol car (with a drug-sniffing poodle and one of the first “portable telephones”) and attempt to work together to capture the crooks.

The side plot involves the crazy owners of the No Man’s Land restaurant in the little border town, the crafty Irène Janus and her clueless husband Jacques. Their desperate attempts to save their restaurant (or at least make a quick buck before it goes down) adds to the increasingly absurd comedic situations. Finally, some of the best one-liners come from the completely inept Tiburce, probably the worst drug smuggler in two countries. Some of the reviews are quite scathing (“simplistic” or “a bad caricature”), while some compare “Rien à Déclarer” to the 1960s comedies starring Louis de Funès and Bourvil. It is certainly meant to be a satirical farce, and I personally had a lot of laughs (and learned how to imitate a Belgian accent, une fois). Just be sure to take off your “Politically Correct” hat before entering the theatre!

Rien à Déclarer (2011)
Directed by Dany Boon

Dany Boon
as Mathias Ducatel
Benoît Poelvoorde
as Ruben Vandevoorde
Julie Bernard
as Louise Vandevoorde (Ruben’s sister)
Karin Viard
as Irène Janus
François Damiens
as Jacques Janus
Bruno Lochet
as Tiburce (the Drug Smuggler)

Watch the trailer with (bad) English subtitles here.


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  • Like you blog! Just discovered it. But please, not this one ! "Bienvenu chez le chti" was ok this one doesn't deserve crossing the ocean.I mean, we have plenty of huge movies: – "la cité des enfants perdus"- "le grand bleu"- "le cinquième élément" (french director, yeah!)- "la cité de la peur ("naked gun"-like movie)- nikita- 8th wonderland- léonIf you want to speak about 'so so' movies, at least let speak about the one that have been correctly redone in the USA, like "La totale", that became the very good "True lies".

  • I love this film as Benoît is one of my favourite actors. I think this film is on a par with his humour in "Astérix aux Jeux olympiques". As for Danny Boon, I have only ever seen him in "Mon meilleur ami", in which he played a serious role, so it was good to see his humorous side.There, you now have THREE French films that don't suck! That said, if you want to see some real classic French comedy, then watch any of the Louis de Funès' Gendarme films. His facial expressions alone have me rolling about laughing. His parents were from Sevilla, here in Spain.Anyway, thanks for the write-up Heather and glad to see you spelt "theatre" correctly (a bit of British-American banter in line with the film, ha ha)!

  • Hi Anne,I mention it in my review if you watch it, and also it's listed when you look at the trailer I linked to with the English subtitles. The English title is "Nothing to Declare" and it's not going to be available in Netflix because it's still in French theatres.Heather

  • Could you please translate the titles of the two films for me? I'd love to see if I can get them from Netflix – and when I use the French titles, nothing comes up. Thank you!

  • What, with my adopted French family being from the north, I loved the Ch'tis and could relate to it very well, coming from a part of England that has its own strong accent and colloquial language.While Rien à Déclarer is not such a clever film, some of those scathing press reviews were somewhat unfair. I even read reviews that accused the film of racism, but having seen it I think it is actually tackling the issue of racism, albeit with humour. The subtext was quite clear, if a little simplistic.Overall the audience thought it very funny.