Little Nicholas: Happy As Can Be

****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Little Nicholas: Happy As Can Be?
"Everything flows with the flourish of an expensive ink pen on paper, as sketches are made to bloom with colour or a bicycle ride turns into a mini adventure, all given additional life by the zippy score from Ludovic Bource." | Photo: Bidibul Productions

This delightful family-friendly animation blends tales of Little Nicholas - a sort of French equivalent of the likes of Just William or The Perishers - with the biography of his creator René Goscinny (voiced by Alain Chabat) and Jean-Jacques Sempé (Laurent Lafitte at the mic). Goscinny is the more internationally famous of the two, having also co-created Asterix and Obelix, who are nicely referenced, but here the focus is on the bond between him and Sempé, which though it weakened down the years lasted until Goscinny's untimely death from a heart attack at just 51.

The dialogue between the fictional life of Nicholas and the lives of his creators is achieved by having Nicholas (voiced by Simon Faliu) step off the page to engage in conversation with the two men as they first begin to create his family and friends before moving on to a series of tales, including - to Nicholas' horror - a visit from a little girl, and an eventful trip to summer camp. In between times, the little boy quizzes Goscinny and Sempé about their personal history, so that we learn something about what makes them tick and the way that their own experiences - which were not always rosy - were reflected in the development of the character, who offers them a sort of wish fulfilment.

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Amandine Fredon has previously directed French TV animation series Ariol and You Will Die Less Stupide (Tu Mourras Moins Bête), while co-director Benjamin Massoubre has a extensive editing CV - which comes in very handy here - having worked on animations including I Lost My Body, Zombillenium and A Minuscule Adventure and they work well as a pair here, drawing on, or perhaps that should be "with" Sempé's style to impressive effect. Goscinny's daughter Anne co-writes with Massoubre and Michel Fessler (March Of The Penguins) but there's an even-handedness to this story that balances the lives of both men, while celebrating the stories they brought to life together.

Everything flows with the flourish of an expensive ink pen on paper, as sketches are made to bloom with colour or a bicycle ride turns into a mini adventure, all given additional life by the zippy score from Ludovic Bource, which frequently takes its cue from Sempé's love of jazz. Educative in a way that won't turn off younger audiences, the directors handle the film's more serious beats with care without ever losing the overwhelming sense of creativity and fun.

Reviewed on: 31 May 2022
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Little Nicholas: Happy As Can Be packshot
The French schoolboy's adventures mix with the biography of his creators.

Director: Amandine Fredon, Benjamin Massoubre

Writer: Michel Fessler, Anne Goscinny, Benjamin Massoubre, based on characters by René Goscinny, Jean-Jacques Sempé

Starring: Laurent Lafitte, Alain Chabat, Simon Faliu

Year: 2022

Runtime: 86 minutes

Country: France, Luxembourg

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Cannes 2022

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Little Nicholas