Starring: Jérôme Niel, Ludovik Day, Nicolas Berno
Director: Remy Four, Julien War
Running Time: 83 mins
Back To School (La Grande Classe) is a French film about two friends who take a night out from their successful lives in the big city to take part in their primary school reunion, where they aim to show off their success to the people who once bullied them, as well as their crushes from childhood.
This is hardly the year’s most cerebral comedy, but Back To School entertains nonetheless, with a good sense of humour throughout, as well as a likable and ultimately kind-hearted story. Add to that a little of bit a play on all our natural tendencies to reminisce to the days of school, and you have a comedy that, while far from hilarious, is always enjoyable, and taps into a few recesses of the mind that you might have just forgotten about.
First things first, though, let’s talk about Back To School as an out-and-out comedy. In short, it’s not a massively hilarious movie, with fairly basic humour and slapstick throughout that never quite had me laughing out loud. So, for a raucous laughterfest, this film might prove a disappointment, but where it does prove a little more entertaining is in how it pokes fun at its characters, and the idea that nobody really ever grows out of the way they behaved back at school.
With the students of a Year 6 class reuniting nearly twenty years after their primary school graduation, one would expect that people would have let the past go, and everybody would behave like sensible, pleasant adults. This film, on the other hand, plays with the idea that they’re all still the same child inside, and when they all come together once again, the same chaos as their childhood days is only minutes away.
That’s by far the film’s funniest suit, and as it takes its supposedly mature characters into more and more infantile situations, arguments and petty squabbles, the true nature of all of the adults begins to show, building up to a thoroughly entertaining and delightfully chaotic final act that sees the reunion turn into madness.
So, while its gags and slapstick may not be enough to make you laugh out loud, Back To School proves to be a perfectly enjoyable movie regardless, thanks to a playful approach to its premise, and a good little bit of pointed mockery at the ‘maturity’ that adults seem to show off so much, when at heart, it’s an entirely different situation.
Otherwise, the movie impresses at times with its surprisingly kind-hearted themes, looking back on the highs and lows of school days, but still remembering that what’s important is the present, not the bickering, bullying and young loves of two decades ago. It’s a story that makes you, too, think back to your own time at primary school, and opens up the odd little memory, adding to the movie’s likability factor as a pleasant nostalgia trip.
Back To School, then, is a perfectly likable and entertaining comedy that, despite lacking laugh-out-loud gags and a genuinely riveting story, impresses with a clever mockery of the worlds of both childhood and adulthood, as well as a the odd bit of nostalgia just to spice things up along the way, so that’s why I’m giving it a 7.1 overall.