Jerome Prebois, Sony Pictures Classics
"Bon Voyage" has as many silly plot twists and character turns as an episode of your average daytime soap opera. And that would be fine if the film didn't seem to think of itself as an homage to "Casablanca."
However, this French import is a cinematic trifle that quickly wears out its welcome. Worse, its rather flippant treatment of an espionage subplot leaves a bad aftertaste, considering a lot of what's going on in the world today.
Most of the action in "Bon Voyage" revolves around the Nazi occupation of Paris during World War II. Among those whose lives are affected is Frederic (Gregori Derangere), a young man falsely imprisoned for the killing of a gangster. As it turns out, Frederic was actually covering up for his actress girlfriend, Viviane (Isabelle Adjani). However, she's now fled to Bordeaux with Beaufort (Gerard Depardieu), the French foreign minister.
During the ensuing chaos in Paris, Frederic escapes and winds up in Bordeaux as well. He also finds himself in the company of a scientist (Jean-Marc Stehle, also the film's production and costume designer) and his beautiful young assistant, Camille (Virginie Ledoyen). Further complicating matters is the presence of a mysterious stranger (Peter Coyote), who may be a journalist, or who could be a spy.
The plot is filled with melodrama, much of it contrived. And it would help if any or even one of the characters was likable. But they're pretty uninteresting, and the resolution of the Frederic-Viviane-Camille love triangle is all too predictable.
Also, the nearly constant winking is pretty tiresome. While it's nice that filmmaker Jean-Paul Rappeneau acknowledges how cheesy some of this stuff is, that doesn't make it any more palatable.
Even the cast seems a adrift at times. Derangere isn't the most charismatic lead to begin with, but thanks to his tentative performance, we're never really sure whether we should be rooting for him. And frankly, why he's drawn to Adjani's whiny movie-star character is anyone's guess.
"Bon Voyage" is rated PG-13 for scenes of violence (war violence, as well as some brawling and a shooting), as well as some use of ethnic slurs. Running time: 114 minutes.
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