Rated: PG-13 for thematic elements and suggestive material. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: February 24, 2017 Released by: GKids Animation
Claude Barras's new subtitled (Swiss/French co-production) stop-motion animated feature is the shortest but hardly least deserving of the Best Animated nominees at this Sunday's 89th Academy Award ceremonies.
Tim Burton and those of his ilk would be fascinated by what Barras and scenarist Celine Sciamma (Water Lilies) have done in 'Ma Vie De Courgette' or My Life as a Zucchini when it comes to hardship and the malleability of family with a child-like zeal at its core.
The animation is sufficiently spry and sumptuous given the tonal shifts used for character visage (with oversized heads), especially of the optic variety to keep adults and their younger companions absorbed.
Natacha Koutchournov voices the abusive mother who accidentally passes away after giving her 9-year-old son Icare the unusual nickname of Courgette or Zucchini (voiced wonderfully by Gaspard Schlatter) remanded to an orphanage with kids from difficult backgrounds. A friendly officer, Raymond, voiced by Michel Vuillermiz, helps to mitigate the transition to his new living quarters.
He's not given the warmest of welcomes (face and head having hues of white, orange, blue and grey eyes) notably by one bullying Simon (Paulin Jaccound). At least until the sweet, confident Camille (Sixtine Murat) shows up when the narrative, with some tragic ramifications and subtext, begins to augment more thematic resonance.
From a getaway to a snowy resort to a visit to a fair an indefatigable force leads to the bittersweet as concern for parents with children have a deeper emotional impact as meaningful relationships are formed. Schlatter, Murat, and Vuillermiz help to enliven the proceedings the most, even during saturnine turns. The appearance of Camille's aunt puts a strain on the new family unit when she gets the state services involved. The moniker obviously sounds silly, but from the aural and visual presentation a memorable optimism counters what can feel like unbearable strife.
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