Tanguy (2001) — It’s time to kick Junior from the nest

“With any luck, he’ll hate me forever.”

Justin’s rating: Je suis le dieu d’des farts mille pingouins

Justin’s review: Everybody knows about the son or daughter who just wouldn’t leave home. Most of us just can’t wait to leave home and enjoy newfound privacy and freedom (even if we do love the folks), but then you got these babies a little too attached to the womb, who are weaned at the age of seven or something. People, it’s official: the parents are declaring war on mooching offspring.

Tanguy (tahn-ghee) is this film’s mooch in question, a 28-year old momma’s boy who has passively resisted leaving the nest. Citing his education as a primary excuse, Tanguy’s been bouncing between interests while working toward his PhD… which seems to never quite finish. He’s overly content at his folks, taking his many girlfriends there at night and borrowing his parents’ car in the morning, and his Chinese Zen philosophy is oblivious to the obvious.

His parents can’t stand him.

And eventually, they start to wage a campaign to make Tanguy’s free ride as uncomfortable and unwelcoming as possible, in hopes that he’ll just finally, blissfully, leave.

This is a French movie given to me by my friend for Christmas, and with all things French, it’s not without a full quota of oddity. I bravely endured English subtitles and Tanguy’s freakishly skinny body to get the most out of this package, and I can say that it is overall worth it — a quirky comedy that for once uses the parents, the older folks, as the comedic rebels, instead of the kid.

That’s not to say this is your typical comedy (not that I can judge what a typical French comedy is, other than the obligatory Jerry Lewis reference). It’s almost two hours long, which is long for a comedy, and since it meanders from episode to episode without quite achieving any sort of Hollywoodish climax, it can feel a bit like a marathon. Personally, I was ready for it to be over a half hour before the end credits actually scrolled, but that may have been due to the downward spiral of actual laughs (before spiking back up in the final bits).

All three of the main characters beg for psychological examinations. The mother, torn between her motherly love for a child and an intense dislike of what her spawn has become, is on the verge of a breakdown. She represses her hatred, which escapes in embarrassing burps, and begins to arc freely on the whole manic-depressive swing set.

The father’s a bit more simple: He just gets angrier and angrier at his freeloading son, frustrated that he’s raised such a loser.

As for Tanguy himself, he’s an odd duck. You’re never quite sure if he knows how horrid he’s being and is a great pretender, or if he’s truly this unaware of his selfish leeching. He goes through the film like a very mellow goldfish, blinking behind round glasses and quoting dumb Chinese sayings every five minutes. Together, they’re a family in dire need of a bratty younger sister to put things in perspective.

What doesn’t make sense to me — and I admit that my lack of education in the French arts may inhibit me somewhat here — is the inconsistency of the characters. The parents go from sort of disliking their son to really hating him and back to loving him, depending on the scene. The mom waffles between goofy excess and subdued insanity, while the dad can’t make up his mind how dark he wants to be in getting rid of his son. Their attitudes toward Tanguy never quite seem to match; sometimes Tanguy is being overly annoying and clearly deserves their wrath, but a lot of the time he’s being nice and helpful and his only fault is merely being there. In other words, as the villain of the flick to which our heroes must battle, he’s a bit of a limp noodle.

This repeated jittery rise and fall of the emotional tension is what makes the scenes more disassociated than they should be. Instead of working as a fluid story, building up toward something grand, it merely stops and starts as the characters vary their actions, emotions, and annoyance factors almost randomly.

This all said, there is some terrific humor to mine from this European import. The parents — mom particularly — remind me of teenagers as they incessantly plot, pull childish pranks on their son, and freak out all the time. It’s funny watching them do these terrible things to their boy, only to have any effects of their actions wash off of him like he was covered in spiritual wax paper. So if you’re looking for something a bit different but still need a laugh as you explore this strange old Francophonic land, Tanguy is there for you, buddy. And he’s gonna swipe the leftovers in your fridge.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s