Starring: Jacques Tati, Nathalie Pascuad, Micheline Rolla
Director: Jacques Tati
Running Time: 86 mins
Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday (Les vacances de Monsieur Hulot) is a French about a man who goes on holiday to a beachside hotel, and accidentally causes chaos for the rest of the guests with his bumbling antics.
Arguably the granddaddy of modern slapstick, Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday is filled with laughs from beginning to end, and despite a somewhat slower pace that does indeed feel a little dated by modern standards, its good-natured, simplistic and delightfully chaotic sense of humour makes it a thoroughly hilarious watch regardless.
First off, a good point of comparison for Monsieur Hulot from a slightly more modern perspective would be characters like Inspector Clouseau from The Pink Panther, and of course Rowan Atkinson’s Mr. Bean, who starred in an homage to this very movie in Mr. Bean’s Holiday. A bumbling but entirely lovable buffoon throughout, Monsieur Hulot’s chaotic antics and lack of awareness for all going on around him is the perfect recipe for a film that’s entirely content on making you smile and laugh with the silliest jokes possible.
Slapstick is – and will always be – comedy’s most enduring genre, with the ability to overcome language and cultural barriers like no other, but one thing that makes it even more enjoyable is injecting a real, genuine likability and good-natured sensibility into affairs, something that this film puts front and centre of its brand of humour.
So, while you can criticise this film for effectively being a series of silly, inconsequential comedy sketches, it’s really difficult to be earnest in that criticism simply because of how likable and nice the movie is. Like any nice but dim character, Monsieur Hulot may be a bit of a buffoon, but his endearing personality pervades through this entire film, and that makes it something very difficult not to like.
But more than being just a nice, good-natured film, the comedy is still very funny. While it doesn’t quite hit home the chaos of the series of events due to a rather slow and often disjointed pace, each of the comedy set pieces work in brilliantly simple fashion with a fun set-up and a great punchline almost every time, sparking a great chuckle from me on a number of occasions throughout.
As a result, this may not be the raucous romp that you may want, but nor does it really need to be. What’s more, rather than being just an hour and a half of following Monsieur Hulot’s various antics, the film spreads out to encompass the mishaps encountered by all of the holidaymakers by the beach, thereby taking on a similar persona to the modern likes of Caddyshack or Wet Hot American Summer, with an ensemble cast whose individual episodes all play in brilliantly to that overall fun factor.
So, while it may not stand out in your eyes as the world’s cleverest or most thrilling comedy, Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday has pretty much everything you need for a fun time at the movies. It’s light-hearted, good-natured, silly and most importantly very funny, and coupled with a thoroughly likable lead character and a bunch of entertaining supporting players across the board, there’s always something to enjoy here, and that’s why I’m giving Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday a 7.7 overall.