Dir: Pierre Jolivet. Fr. 2005. 90mins.
Played for- aughs like the flipside of Mathieu Kassovitz's gritty LaHaine, Zim And Co is a pleasant ultra benign diversion in itsportrayal of the trials and tribulations of a multi-cultural cast of characters- one Arab, one African and one white (who may be Jewish).
Screened at Cannes in Un Certain Regard, its comic energyis wildly uneven, but for the most part its charm quotient stays high, thankslargely to the fact that these dead-end kids always remain polite to theirfriends' parents and safely lovable even when they're robbing and stealing.
It's probably too slight to garner much attention beyondits native France, but it should play well on Euro television and wouldn't beout of place at international festivals looking for something upbeat.
Solidly locatable within what might be called the 'deadline'genre, the film features the attractive and charming Zim (Adrien Jolivet, thedirector's son), whose nickname stands for a long, unpronounceable surname ofEastern European origin.
A series of misadventures has caused him to become involved in ahit-and-run accident on his scooter, and unless he gets a paying job rightaway, the judge will send him to prison, where he is afraid of being raped incharacter motivation that recalls Spike Lee's 25th Hour.
To get the job, he needs a car. To get the car, he needs adriver's license and some money. To get the licence and the money, he needs'You get the picture.
Mostly, Zim hangs out with his bosom buddies Cheb (Arezki), anArab, and Arthur (Nasso), who's black, as they scheme and charm their wayaround the road hazards of working class life.
Cheb is given the cute tic of being an indefatigable inventor ofgadgets that don't quite work, and which are supposed to be a source of laughs(and sometimes are). Arthur has an overbearing father who is happy to condemnhis son to a life of drudgery on an assembly line just to prove that he and hisfamily are worthy of being considered French. Zim's promiscuous and cluelessmother is considered 'hot' by his friends, to his embarrassment, and his loveinterest is an Arab girl named Safia (Ayadi).
They are, predictably, very cute together, and offer the dream ofa society in which ethnic divisions will have no place. There's even a guy whostutters.
Speaking of ethnicity, toward the end, the film surprises bymounting an only partially-realised but promising portrayal of the casualracism often found in French society.
Alas, these acute social observations are mostly employedto give a bit of an edge to the comedy, and it's a shame that they are not moredeveloped. Then again, that would make this an entirely different - and better- film.
Audiences are bludgeoned with the predictable hip-hop and heavymetal soundtrack that accompanies the mandatory montage sequences, and thosebeyond a certain age may begin to lose patience at this point. But Zim AndCo is always sharply edited, full of adolescent spirit, and more thanfitfully funny. It's just a little too nice for its own good.