Movie Review - My Life as a Zucchini

Premiered at the 69th Cannes Film Festival, the adaptation of Gilles Paris' novel went on to be nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 89th Academy Awards. It didn't win, but it did pick up two César Awards, one for Best Adapted Screenplay and one for Best Animated Feature. Writer Céline Sciamma nabbed the former and director Claude Barras got the latter. Barras utilizes stop-motion techniques. It's reminiscent of the TV character Gumby. The people aren't clay figures but they look like it. They also look like 3D interpretations of South Park characters. The main characters here are wise-cracking children. Sciamma's script isn't as nearly irreverent or as foul-mouthed. It's also less of a comedy as it is a drama.

The film is French but I watched the version with American actors having dubbed the voices. Eric Abbate plays Icare, a 9-year-old boy who finds himself in an orphanage called Fontaines. As such, this movie could easily draw comparisons to Oliver Twist and Annie, except the orphanage in this film isn't a nightmare. It's like Short Term 12, but for younger children. It's almost a refuge or shelter from bad situations.

It's never stated, yet implied that one child is there because her father was a sexual predator. Another child's father was a thief. A different child's parents got deported. Icare is nicknamed "courgette," which is French for zucchini, and Zucchini's situation is a bit different. All the other children are sheer victims, and what Zucchini did was an accident, but he in fact caused himself to be an orphan at least when it comes to his mother.

At first, Zucchini doesn't acknowledge the reality of his situation or actions. Later, he does, but the movie never really reconciles what he did. It seems like he eventually just forgets his mother even existed. It's not to say he should feel guilty, but he never mentions her again, which felt like a hole in this movie's narrative.

The movie is all about the children in this orphanage and building them as their own family. The movie focuses on that, which is fine, but the movie juggles a child romance that ends with the two children becoming siblings. The movie circumvents the murkiness of that and goes for the easy sentimentality, which is fine. Most animated films do, but the tone suggested this one might do more or be a bit edgier. Yet, that isn't the case.

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and suggestive material.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 10 mins.


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