By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
GKIDS USA release date:
February 24, 2017
Once in a while, a stop-motion animated film will amaze. My Life as a Zucchini (the English title of the Swiss-French Ma vie de Courgette) has a wonderful artistic design to it, reminiscent of Tim Burton’s wide-eyed look. This movie is based on the book by Gilles Paris and just like it, the story touches on the tough themes of how kids dealing with abandonment. At the same time, audiences get to learn about what establishing of a family, related or not, means. Icare (who prefers the nickname Zucchini – Courgette in French) is the protagonist, and after a quick look at his home life, his next day looks like a complete disaster. He may have or not have accidentally caused the death of his mother. She was drunk and aggressive towards her boy, so it’s tough to say if what happened was her fault or his. We never truly know when the titles roll.
Without any adults in his life, he now faces an uncertain future while living at an orphanage. He finds others like him and in some people’s eyes, they are damaged goods because of why they were placed here. Simon, the bully of this estate reveals all, but after an instance where Courgette shows he’s not afraid, becomes his friend (perhaps maybe too quickly) and as the two come to realize their existence is meaningless, just where this movie goes depends on how quick viewers are to notice the signs.
The tale moves predictably when I saw Officer Raymond taking an interest in Courgette’s life. Fortunately, there’s a bit of a twist to keep this part of the story fresh and why this movie succeeds is with the laughs. Hearing these kids point of view of events going on (past or present) is both charming and full of chuckles. They talk about difficult adult topics like sex, suicides and domestic violence from an innocent point of view. If Paris ever decides to expand this work to a second book, I am curious to see how these boys turn out twenty years later. In this film, they are simply kids. They get schooled in-house and while those moments are technically boring, their playground and after school antics reminds me of the days I followed the classic television series Our Gang.
But with a tale that shows these kids can find a good life in their own little community, can anything else happen to make the situation worse? When Camille arrives, will puppy love tear the boys apart? Fortunately, only Courgette is the only one smitten, but to see how these two become close only tugs at the heart. She has her own problems too, and as the story comes to a brisk end, perhaps what this film needs more of is that reminder that somewhere, over the rainbow, dreams really do come true. We just all need a little help from the right people, including those willing to make sacrifices and/or be in the same shoes as the kids are, to make it happen, and this message of hope makes this film stand out and a contender for the upcoming Oscar Academy Awards Ceremony.
4½ Stars out of 5