Le Jouet (1976)
aka: The Toy
A film directed by Francis Veber

Genre: Comedy

Film Review

Le Jouet photo
Having scripted such popular film comedies as Le Grand blond avec une chaussure noire (1972) and L'Emmerdeur (1973), Francis Veber made an impressive directorial debut with Le Jouet, a well-judged social satire which starred Pierre Richard, one of the most popular comic actors in France. The film - which is probably Veber's most overtly political - takes a humorous look at the way employees can end up being subjugated by their powerful employers, effectively becoming toys to be bought, abused and later discarded on a whim. The film probably had far more impact when it was released in the mid-1970s, when France was in the midst of a period of social and political unease and high unemployment. However, the portrayal of a rich businessman as someone who heartlessly plays with people's lives for his own amusement is something which still strikes a chord, so the film remains highly relevant, and consequently very funny.

For a first film, Veber does an excellent job. Whilst Le Jouet doesn't quite match up to the standard of some of his later films - for example, Le Dîner de cons (1998) - it is still a hugely entertaining and thought-provoking piece. There's an unforgettable performance from Michel Bouquet, playing the apparently soulless Rambal-Cochet with chilling realism, although a note of conscience is just detectable in a few scenes. Pierre Richard is surprisingly restrained in this portrayal of Veber's recurring hapless hero "F.P.", and the film is better for it. Rather than going for quick and easy laughs (as happens in some of his less intelligent comedies), Richard's performance here is far more thoughtful and compassionate, an indication that beneath that zany comic exterior there lies an actor of real talent.

Like many of Francis Veber's films, Le Jouet was remade in America. The Toy (1982), directed by Richard Donner and starring Richard Pryor and Jackie Gleason, is entertaining fare but it has neither the irony nor true human feeling that makes the French original so likeable.
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Film Credits

Directed by Francis Veber
Starring: Pierre Richard, Michel Bouquet, Fabrice Greco, Jacques François, Daniel Ceccaldi
[Read more...]

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