The Chateau

2002, Movie, R, 92 mins


Two orphaned brothers, a slacker and a player, inherit a castle from a French uncle they never even knew existed and find themselves entangled in a multi-cultural comedy of errors. Hilarity does not ensue. Shot on dismal-looking digital video and partly improvised by the cast, this painfully unfunny farce traffics in tired stereotypes and encumbers itself with complications — notably the fact that one brother is black and the other white, and one uses two names — that have no bearing on the story. Siblings Graham (Paul Rudd) and Allen Granville (Romany Malco) have little in common. Perpetual student Graham has little ambition or focus and squanders his energy on therapy, trying to figure out why he can't get a girlfriend. Los Angeles-based Allen, who calls himself Rex, runs a website selling remedies for male sexual dysfunction and gets all the ladies. They set off together to claim their castle and enjoy some sun and fun in the French countryside, but find the weather inclement, the servants sullen and their arrival totally unexpected — perhaps because Graham was charged with making arrangements and his French extends no farther than such fractured utterances as, "I left-ez my chausseurs on the train." Thank goodness butler Jean (Didier Flamand) and morose housemaid and single mother Isabelle (Sylvie Testud) speak some English, so they can advise the brothers that the crumbling castle is encumbered with unpaid debt. The staff is rounded out by surly groundskeeper Pierre (Phillipe Nabon) and his glowering wife Sabine (Maria Verdi), whose job seems to be giving outsiders the evil eye. The brothers decide to sell the place, but feel sufficiently responsible for the live-in servants to insist that their snooty realtor find a buyer who will take the staff with the house. She can only roll her eyes in astonishment at their utter stupidity. And that's the joke, repeated again and again: The Granvilles are ignorant boors, utterly clueless and inadvertently condescending, while the servants are shifty and contemptuous. Frankly, they look as though they're plotting to kill the interlopers in their sleep, which would be far more entertaining that what actually happens. Director Jesse Peretz, onetime bassist for The Lemonheads, cut his teeth on music videos and appears to have embraced the austere aesthetics of Dogme 95 filmmakers without comprehending that an interesting story and well-developed characters are supposed to be part of the package. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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