A scene from "Let My People Go." (Handout )
There are slivers of wit embedded in the broad shtick of "Let My People Go!," a home-for-the-holidays romantic comedy for which home is a noisy Parisian clan, the holiday is Passover and the prodigal son is a gay 30ish mailman whose usual state of mind is the tizzies.
The road to the inevitable slapsticky Seder is paved with more sweetness than bite, a good deal of frantic foolishness and progressively thinner laughs, all wrapped in a message of acceptance and inclusiveness.
Scripted by first-time director Mikael Buch and art-house auteur Christophe Honoré, the farce is by turns fresh and fusty. The shenanigans spin around Ruben (Nicolas Maury), who delivers mail in a candy-colored Finnish town. An incident on his route presents a dilemma that he and his boyfriend, Teemu (Jarkko Niemi), view very differently.
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Before Teemu sends Ruben packing, their ethical debate seamlessly devolves into an argument over the quality of French actresses — a nice bit of byplay that promises a more finely tuned brand of humor than what ensues.
What does ensue is a family tsoris machine cranked to 11. Ruben's visit inspires an aggressive act of unburdening by his father (Jean-François Stévenin), while his mother (Almodóvar fave Carmen Maura) stars in a fantasy-sequence commercial for a product that spritzes instant Jewishness.
The buffoonery escalates with the madcap pursuit of Ruben by a widower (Jean-Luc Bideau) that falls short of the intended hilarity, like a good portion of this openhearted comedy.
"Let My People Go!" No MPAA rating; in French and Finnish with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes. At Laemmle's Royal, West Los Angeles; Laemmle's Town Center 5, Encino.