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With: Gaspard Schlatter, Sixtine Murat, Paulin Jaccoud, Michel Vuillermoz, Raul Ribera, Estelle Hennard, Elliot Sanchez, Lou Wick, Brigitte Rosset, Monica Budde, Adrien Barazzone, Véronique Montel (French voices); Erick Abbate, Ness Krell, Will Forte, Nick Offerman, Ellen Page, Amy Sedaris, Romy Beckman, Barry Mitchell, Olivia Bucknor, Susanne Blakeslee, Finn Robbins, Clara Young (English voices)
Written by: Céline Sciamma, Germano Zullo, Claude Barras, Morgan Navarro, based on a novel by Gilles Paris
Directed by: Claude Barras
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements and suggestive material
Language: French, with English subtitles/English
Running Time: 70
Date: 03/03/2017

My Life as a Zucchini (2017)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Not Easy Being Green

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

An Oscar nominee for Best Animated Feature, this stop-motion film from France does what the greatest children's stories do: it refuses to avoid darkness, fear, and sorrow. And yet its delightful characters are deepened and strengthened by what they experience here. It only runs about an hour and ten minutes, but it does not feel rushed, and it's far more than just a trifle.

My Life as a Zucchini tells the story of a child called Zucchini (or "Courgette" in the French-language version), a nickname given by his mother that he refuses to give up. His father is gone, and his mother drinks too much beer and argues with the TV. After an accident, Zucchini finds himself alone in the world, and a kindly policeman escorts him to an orphanage.

He clashes with the bully, Simon, and meets the other kids, all of whom have harrowing, and all-too-real sounding pasts. A new girl, Camille, arrives, and Zucchini falls instantly in love. But her nasty aunt means to take her away, looking for the income that goes along with her.

That's about it, but director Claude Barras guides the beautiful animation and sound design in a way that fills in the story with untold riches. There are mealtimes, Zucchini writing letters and drawing pictures, kite-flying, and a wonderful chart that shows how each child is feeling that day. As the children get through each day, they tackle, from their own unique points of view, issues of death, abandonment, substance abuse, and sexuality.

The characters are odd-looking, with beet-red noses and ears as if they'd been boxed or left out in the cold, and blue rings around their eyes, but their eyes themselves and their expressions are instantly warm and appealing. It's as if the filmmakers are daring the audience to look past the unappealing factors to find the appealing ones. It's a gamble that pays off. This is a delight.

My Life as a Zucchini has shown around the world in its French-language version -- which is the version I've seen -- and it is presumably opening in March of 2017 in the United States in its English-dubbed version, with voicework by Will Forte, Nick Offerman, Ellen Page, and others.

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