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)