French farce is no 'Cage Aux Folles'

Posted: May 11, 2007

For decades, Francis Veber has been cranking out clever farces, mistaken-identity comedies, japering capers. One of France's most successful writer/director/producers, Veber's entertainments have done well in Hollywood, too: The Tall Blond Man With One Black Shoe became Tom Hanks' The Man With One Red Shoe, La Cage Aux Folles became Birds of a Feather, and so on.

Someone in Los Angeles doubtless holds the remake rights to The Valet, but they'll have a challenge. This mildly amusing tale of infidelity, blackmail, class differences and corporate greed not only strains credulity - it strains for laughs.

The premise is typical Veber: A business titan, Levasseur (Daniel Auteuil), faces scandal when a tabloid shooter snaps him with his supermodel mistress (Alice Taglioni). Levasseur's wife - the major shareholder in the company - eyes the photo and is ready to divorce. But as fate would have it, there's another figure in the pic: a second man, a passerby, seen on the leggy Elena's other side. Levasseur tells his wife he doesn't know the girl, and was just walking along.

Christine (Kristin Scott Thomas) is hardly convinced, but Levasseur and his lawyer find this fellow - a car valet named Francois Pignon (Gad Elmaleh). They pay him (a pittance) and Elena (a fortune) to shack up, be seen in public, and convince the world - and Madame Levasseur - that the celebrity mannequin and the lowly parking guy are for real.

Throw in Pignon's mopey roommate (Dany Boon), Pignon's true love (Virginie Ledoyen), a troupe of supporting players and you have . . . well, you have the slightest of romps, and one that ends so abruptly that you suspect the prolific Veber had already moved on to his next project.


The Valet **1/2 (out of four stars)

Written and directed by Francis Veber. With Gad Elmaleh, Alice Taglioni, Daniel Auteuil and Kristin Scott Thomas. In French with subtitles. Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics.

Running time: 1 hour, 25 mins.

Parent's guide: PG-13 (adult themes)

Playing at: The Ritz at the Bourse and Showcase at the Ritz Center (formerly Ritz Sixteen/NJ)

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