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Monday, June 17, 2019

'Return of the Hero' DVD: Hilarious Period Piece of Manners and Lack Thereof

The Icarus Films May 14, 2019 DVD release of the 2018 period-piece comedy "Return of the Hero" fills the void left by Hollywood no longer producing amusing and clever (or at least adequately creative) summer movies. Subtitles aside, "Hero" is so good that you will not even want to look at your phone or other devices while watching it. 

Another awesome aspect of "Hero" is that it shows that writer/director Laurent Tirard is more than a un trick cheval regarding the even more delightful (reviewed) "Nicholas on Holiday" (nee "Petit Nicholas") about the family summer vacation of the titular French school boy. Other "Hero" cred. relates to Oscar-winner Jean Dujardin delivering another award-worthy performance as the titular soldier who is not at Waterloo when Napoleon did surrender. 

This presumably shot-on-location beautiful film begins in 1809 Burgundy. Captaine Charles-Gregoire Neuville seemingly employs his entire personal staff in preparation for froggy goin' a courtin'. The object of his affection is sweet and innocent girl next door Pauline. She lives on a lavish estate with her adoring parents and her less sweet and innocent older sister Elisabeth (Melanie Laurent).

Neuville seals a chaste deal with Pauline just ahead of being called on to defend emperor and country. Like many soldiers before and since, Neuville makes an empty promise to faithfully correspond with Pauline. 

A combination of motives prompt Elisabeth to forge letters from Neuville to Pauline; the responses to that correspondence shows Elisabeth that her little sister is all grown up.

In true farce/classic sitcom style, the scheme of Elisabeth gets out of hand. Circumstances and her creativity result in increasing elaborate and contrived fictional adventures of Neuville that enrapture both Pauline and the rest of the local elite. 

All goes well until the inevitable titular appearance of a filthy and disgraced Neuville in 1812; Elisabeth being the only one to initially know that that boy is back in town helps move the story forward; this plot thickens on Neuville returning after a brief absence and presenting himself as the man in the aforementioned letters. His objectives include wooing a now-married with children Pauline.

Dujardin and Laurent wonderfully play off each other as she must watch him make fools out of those nearest and dearest to her. Neuville further shows that he is no gentleman in using the vulnerability of Elisabeth for his own fun and profit, 

One of many notable moments involves Elisabeth seeming to get the upper-hand on her frienemy. The manner in which Neuville turns that tactic around to his advantage proves that you cannot con a con man. 

The aptly surprising climax that begins with a desperate act leads to a final scene that is very true to the spirit of the film and that is one of the best endings in any film ever. This lesson this time is that we all remain true to our nature. 

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