This is a movie that shows kids as they can be—kind and at times rowdy and sometimes instigators in starting a fight. In addition, we see the lives of the creators of Nicholas, a popular comic strip character, who takes on a life of his own. We see them drinking wine and smoking, and Rene’ shares that he didn’t have a nice childhood, but he is able to do some creative things for Nicholas and to give him the type of childhood that he himself wishes he had lived. Jean-Jacques is the writer and Rene’ Goscinny is the illustrator.
The animation is nicely done, and it shows the various settings in nicely drawn colors and illustrations brought to life including Paris, France. The story opens in Paris and immediately catches the viewer’s attention as it shows an artist penciling in and painting a character. Next, we see a man that is in a hurry, and he bumps a car as he runs, and as a result the driver shakes a fist at him. And a man on a bike accidentally bumps an officer and the officer is twirled around, and he’s not happy about it. The year is 1955 and Jean-Jacques and Rene’ come up with the name Nicholas for their character and Rene’ suggests an illustration of Nicholas and his parents next to him. Rene’ sees Nicholas as a simple kid, living in a little house in the suburbs. The movie fast forwards to the year 1977 and we learn that Rene’ has just passed away at age 51. And Jean-Jacques asks himself, “What about Nicholas? What should I do?”
Alain Chabat voices Rene’ in the film, and Laurent Lufitte voices Jean-Jacques. The film features some interesting characterizations. For example, Nicholas’ dad decides to buy a new 21-inch TV, and Nicholas’ mom can’t decide where the delivery man should place it. So, the poor delivery man huffs and puffs and is barely hanging on to the set while Mom decides where she wants it. The neighbor suggests to Nicholas’ dad that it’s a small screen, and his dad is incredulous: “It’s a 21-inch!” which does add some humor as today’s screens are often 75-80 inches in size. “You’re just jealous!” says Dad to the neighbor. “Me jealous?” says the neighbor. “I’ve got a piano, yes indeed. I have classical music records, yes indeed!” And Nicholas suggests the new TV be put in his bedroom, but it doesn’t go that way!
Another humorous moment occurs when Rene’ and Jean-Jacques appear on a TV talk show. The host asks them to explain why they’re there and Jean-Jacques replies, “It’s raining!” Apparently, they had nothing better to do. And in one scene Nicholas spots Rene’ and Jean-Jacques on TV and exclaims, “They’re my creators!”
Nicholas’ dad and his mother-in-law don’t get along very well, and she comes for a visit. At one point Nicholas’ dad is concerned for his son’s future, stating he’s concerned Nicholas will turn into an ignoramus. “A son-in-law!” says the mother-in-law.
There are several things to think about. On one hand, the movie does a good job in showing the importance of education, and this feature feeds the imagination. For example, Nicholas receives a toy airplane from his grandmother, and soon he is imagining himself in a full-sized plane and piloting it. It features the importance of dreams. The importance of strong family ties is emphasized as Rene’ mentions he loved his father but that his dad would become mean after drinking. Fortunately, he became close to his grandfather. And the Nazis and Hitler and that background is given so some history is included in this animated feature. On the other hand, there are several scenes of characters either drinking or having wine at hand, and there are a few smoking scenes too. In a couple of scenes, kids get into a fight at school and begin hitting one another, and they wind up stirring up dust. And we learn one character lied about his age to join the military. A few characters call one another “moron” or “dummy.”
The movie is a coming-of-age movie in some respects, as Nicholas at one point states that “girls are lame” but then he winds up becoming friends with one. And there’s a good history given about this long-running character and comic strip.
Kids are seen realistically in many ways, and we see the creative process of Nicholas’ creators. The film has earned our Dove seal for Ages 12+.
THE DOVE TAKE: This film does an excellent job in showing the creative process which delivered a long-running character, and the importance of family.