Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Alexandre Coffre
Stars: Dany Boon, Valerie Bonneton, Denis Menochet, Albert Delpy.
Dany Boon is one of France’s most popular stars of comedy films, and to prove his versatility he moves between romantic comedies like A Perfect Plan through to slapstick farces like Welcome To The Sticks and Nothing To Declare, etc, which allow him to display his flair for physical comedy and playing the emotionally wounded loser. His latest comedy combines both genres in a film that borrows from the familiar formula of those odd couple buddy road movies that have shaped films like Planes, Trains And Automobiles, which paired an uptight Steve Martin with an eccentric and annoying sad sack John Candy to great effect, and Due Date which reworked the formula with Robert Downey jr and Zach Galifianakis. But thankfully The Volcano is a much funnier and pacier film than the awful Guilt Trip which paired Set Rogen and Barbra Streisand as a whining and overprotective Jewish mother and her son, and sent them on a road trip.
Here Boon and Valerie Bonneton (Little White Lies, etc) plays Alain and Valerie, a divorced couple who are heading to Greece to attend the wedding for their daughter. Even though they are flying on the same plane they are sitting well apart because they still hate each other with a passion, as is evident given their acrimonious exchanges and the petty little practical jokes they play on each other at every opportunity. But their plane trip is interrupted by the eruption of the volcano with the unpronounceable name of Eyjfalljokull in Iceland, that spews volcanic ash into the atmosphere and forced all flights to be grounded. They are forced to land in Germany and find other means of transport to finish their journey.
Thus begins a journey fraught with tension and lots of potential for comic encounters and physical humour. Alain hires an expensive Porsche, but much to his chagrin Valerie accompanies him. The trip ends in disaster in a hilarious sequence, forcing the bickering couple to try and continue their journey by hitching rides on buses , ships, a light plane and even getting a ride with a serial killer turned religious fanatic in his travelling mobile chapel.
Although insults and sparks fly between the couple, it is fairly obvious from the start where The Volcano is headed, especially given the antecedents of the genre. But it is a lot of fun getting there, and I must admit I thoroughly enjoyed the film and had a lot of laughs. There is great combustible chemistry between Boon and Bonneton that adds to the joys of the film as well. Boon is quite endearing and very funny, even though his character does some horrible things to his former wife, while Bonneton more than matches him with her superb comic timing and physical humour.
Director Alexandre Coffre has a good eye for visual humour and he keeps things moving along at a fast pace. The wonderful scenery of some picturesque European cities, beautifully shot by veteran cinematographer Pierre Cottereau (Cafe de Flore, etc), is also a decided plus.
There is a wonderful supporting cast of eccentric characters who get caught between the feuding couple, and they add to the chaotic sense of humour that permeates the material. Albert Delpy (father of actress/director Julie Delpy) puts in a brief appearance as their befuddled Uncle Roger, a role not too dissimilar to the one he played in his daughter’s 2 Days In Paris and 2 Days In New York.