Little Nicholas: happy as can be

Little Nicholas: happy as can be
Original title:Le Petit Nicolas - Qu’est-ce qu’on attend pour être heureux ?
Director:Amandine Fredon, Benjamin Massoubre
Running time:82 minutes
Release date:13 december 2022
Leaning over a large blank sheet of paper somewhere between Montmartre and Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Jean-Jacques Sempé and René Goscinny give life to a laughing and mischievous little boy, Little Nicholas. Between camaraderie, arguments, fights, games, mischief, and punishments in spades, Nicolas lives a childhood made of joy and learning. As the story unfolds, the boy slips into the workshop of his creators, and challenges them with humour. Sempé and Goscinny will tell him about their meeting, their friendship, but also their paths, their secrets and their childhood.

Mulder's Review

"At the beginning, the idea was to make a documentary film mixing archive videos of Jean-Jacques Sempé and René Goscinny with the stories drawn by Petit Nicolas. Finally, the project evolved and the desire to make the entire film in animation became apparent. In relation to the authors' universe, it seemed coherent and also allowed us to adapt, for the first time, The Little Nicholas in animation. - Amandine Fredon

If there is one cult character in French literature that has made several generations of readers dream, it is the character of Little Nicholas. There are no less than 222 stories published in eight collections, most of which were written between 1956 and 1965 by René Goscinny (who also created Asterix with Albert Uderzo), and illustrated by Jean-Jacques Sempé. These short stories depict the adventures of the young schoolboy Nicolas in his family, at school or on different vacation locations. The colossal success of these short stories has made several generations of readers discover and love this offbeat universe to the point of reading all his adventures and hoping one day to find the pleasure of this character. 

Of course the cinema was interested in it but the result did not really convince and leave an imperishable memory. Whether it is a sketch (La Photo de classe) in the film Tous les enfants du monde (1964), or the films Le Petit Nicolas, (2009), Les Vacances du petit Nicolas (2014), Le Trésor du Petit Nicolas (2021) or an animated series Le Petit Nicolas (broadcast in France on M6) all these more or less successful attempts had not succeeded in transposing to the cinema or television the so irresistible tone of this universe. We would have liked so much to immerse ourselves in this universe that with time our hope had faded. However, the movie The Little Nicholas - What are we waiting for to be happy? turns out to be the famous grail that all the readers of The Little Nicholas were waiting for and even more. Not only does the much-loved universe really come to life before our eyes, but above all this film revisits with great generosity the friendship between two pure geniuses who changed forever the world of comics and children's novels René Goscinny and Jean-Jacques Sempé

When discovering this pure masterpiece of animation, recently awarded the Crystal Prize at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival, we see the short stories of Little Nicolas being drawn before our eyes, but above all we learn more about the meeting and the long friendship between these two great personalities of literature. Their collaboration had succeeded in transcribing with genius the way in which the children saw the world that it is the friendship between buddies, the work at school, the first meetings with the girls, all sounded so right and of poetic way in these novels. The undeniable complementarity of René Goscinny and Jean-Jacques Sempé is shown here with a real nostalgia and above all we understand better how they created their universe, the name of little Nicolas, his family, his friends at school. Despite the short duration of the film, nothing is forgotten and we come out with a tear in our eye and especially the desire to dive back into the novels of our childhood, whatever our age. The universality and timelessness of the stories partly explain why these novels have kept their strength intact in the same way that the Asterix stories can be reread with the same pleasure. 

Little Nicholas: happy as can be also deals with the creative process with real intelligence and how the importance of the combination of text and drawings have made the world of Little Nicholas a source of inspiration for many directors and actors. The French version also benefits from the presence of two excellent actors, Alain Chabat and Laurent Lafitte, who take great pleasure in lending their voices to the two authors and, above all, we feel their boundless admiration for this universe. While animated films too often tend to be categorized as young audiences, this film shows that it is once again a genre in its own right in which talented directors can express their creativity without limits. 

Far from wanting to adapt to the level of animation of the big American and Japanese animation studios, Little Nicholas: happy as can be makes the risky but successful bet of getting closer to the drawings of the Little Nicholas books. The result is a striking nostalgic effect and at times quite sad, such as the fact that it deals with the death of René Goscinny too soon.  Where many films have tried to find the magic of this considerable work, this film succeeds and above all makes us dream and shows us that whatever our age our child's soul is still there and it is enough to listen to it to see the magic that surrounds us and how we can draw from it as René Goscinny and Jean-Jacques Sempé did to create beautiful universal and unforgettable stories.

Little Nicholas: happy as can be 
Directed by Amandine Fredon, Benjamin Massoubre
Produced byAton Soumache, Lilian Eche, Cédric Pilot and Christel Henon
Written by Anne Goscinny, Michel Fessler
Based on the books of René Goscinny and Jean-Jacques Sempé
Starring Alain Chabat, Laurent Lafitte, Simon Faliu
Music by Ludovic Bource
Edited by Benjamin Massoubre
Production companies : On classics (Mediawan) and Bidibul Productions
Distributed by BAC Films (France)
Release date : October 12, 2022 (France)
Running time : 82 minutes

Seen on June 19, 2022 at Gaumont Disney Village, Room 4 seat A17

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