Directed by Claude Barras
Screenplay by Céline Sciamma, with writing by Germano Zullo, Claude Barras and Morgan Navarro, based on the novel by Gilles Paris
Voice Work by Will Forte, Nick Offerman, Amy Sedaris, Ellen Page and more
Grade: Three and a half stars
Stop-motion animation can be magic.
Proof of that can be found in “My Life As A Zucchini,” the sweet little gem of a movie that’s part of this year’s Sundance Kids collection. The English dub of an award-winning French-Swiss film released last year, the movie tells the quiet, moving story of a young orphan finally finding a place he can call home. Though there are serious issues addressed in the movie, the melancholy is matched by a sense of whimsy and even hope.
“Zucchini” follows the story of a young boy who was given his vegetable-based nickname by a bitter, alcoholic mother. When an accident leaves him parentless, he heads to a small orphanage where he has to navigate his place among the other children. Though it’s the same set-up as any number of other classic orphan narratives, “Zucchini” isn’t interested in big narrative drama. Instead, it focuses on what it means to be loved, and is a much richer movie experience for it.
The animation is surprisingly perfect for the subject, fresh with innocence but far from perfect-looking. In fact, the puppets seem to evoke slightly cleaned-up child’s drawings, like the ones Zucchini includes in the letters to various people. The effect sharpens the feeling that this is a story Zucchini himself is telling you, as if you’re one of the people he cares enough about to write to. It makes the movie feel that much more intimate, and left me with the warm feeling that I always get when I’ve spent time with someone lovely.
There are also several moments of quiet humor, including a childish explanation of sex that manages to be both funny and surprisingly innocent. Though perhaps not appropriate for the very youngest children, there’s a lot here that both kids and adults will be able to appreciate when the movie is released in late February here in the U.S.