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Movie Review: The Valet Runs in Neutral

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The Valet, written and directed by Francis Veber, seems like the kind of movie that would have a syrupy aftertaste that could turn the stomach of the biggest sweet tooth. There’s the whole Beauty and the Beast vibe happening, so there’s bound to be some sort of moral to the story or maybe a musical sequence, right?

On the contrary, the film is a rather humorous take on a stereotypical guy’s fantasy of being romantically entangled with a supermodel while being paid for it. The story is about maintaining appearances, false perceptions of perfection, and surmounting personal shortcomings. And there’s also a bit of fashion show.

Through a paparazzi photograph, Francois (played by Gad Elmaleh) enters the world of haute couture and lavish dinner parties, when a billionaire, Pierre Lavasseur (played by Daniel Auteuil), tries to cover up his affair with supermodel Elena (played by Alice Taglioni). Underneath the chaos brought into Francois and Elena’s lives, a true friendship develops and they end up helping each other extricate themselves from their respective problems.

This is a classic “nerd and popular girl become prom king and queen” type flick. It’s really been done to death but it’s hard not to smile when the nerd gets the courage to get up on that stage and dance with the girl.

Though the plot is thin this doesn’t stop the actors from being excellent in their parts. Francois is relatable, Pierre is sleazy, and Elena is beautiful and intelligent. I was unfamiliar with the cast save for Kristin Scott Thomas, but a quick look through their respective filmographies reveals that all these are well established, veteran actors.

The Valet sets out a simple framework with a couple of interesting characters and finds a way to perk up a tired old story. It’s a “date movie” through and through. It’s a hard movie to hate because it’s not too sappy, there’s a decent moral, and there’s a boob joke, but it’s just as hard to really like this movie because this isn’t anything new.

Opens April 27, 2007. I saw a subtitled version, but a dubbed version may be available for the wide release. 

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