MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo: Rita Productions
On DVD and Blu-Ray, Video on Demand, iTunes, Amazon Video, Google Play, Fandango Now and VUDU.
Directed by Claude Barras. Animated Feature Rated PG-13
Every child deserves a life filled with hope and wonder, but that’s simply not the way things work out for a lot of kids. Consider little Icare (voiced by Erick Abbate). His father abandoned the family years ago and his mother is a stay-at-home alcoholic. Icare flies a kite that reminds him of his dad and uses his mom’s empty beer cans as building blocks as he plays in his attic bedroom. One day when a pyramid of cans comes crashing down, his mother screams at him from the downstairs living room in a drunken fury, threatening to “beat him as he’s never been beaten before”. As she races up the steps, Icare shuts the attic door abruptly. The door hits her head and she falls down the steps. To her death.
This opening scene (which takes place before the credits) is neither done whimsically or tragically, but in the matter-of-fact way in which lousy things can suddenly happen to good people. Soon the little boy is driven to the local orphanage by a kind policeman (Nick Offerman) who promises to come back to visit him again (and he is good to his word).
The orphanage is a modest home staffed by kind, caring persons who love the children, calling them by name and giving bedtime hugs and kisses. When Icare arrives, he insists on being called “Zucchini” (The film takes him at his word and never bothers to explain this new name.) Even the teasing and tormenting of Simon (Romy Beckman), one of the older boys, doesn’t seem to faze Zucchini, who brings a rich imagination along with him. Every child is lonely and carries a heavy burden, but the loving environment of the orphanage as well as the growing friendships between the kids creates a family of sorts.
When Camille (Ness Krell), a pretty new girl, arrives on the scene, Zucchini is smitten. Their love is innocent and sweet but threatened when Camille’s cruel aunt (Amy Sedaris) threatens to seek custody.
There is more character development than plot in this short 67-minute stop-motion clay animation Swiss/French production. The character design evokes memories of such diverse sources as Peanuts, Davey and Goliath, Gumby and Pokey, and SNL’s Mr. Bill (“Oh nooooo.”). It works beautifully; this is one charming film.
The New Testament is not hesitant to encourage compassion and care for widows and orphans, and Jesus promises: “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.” (John 14:18)
In a variety of small and significant ways the kids in My Life as a Zucchini are cared for, and discover ways to care for one another. These little clay characters bring with them a wonderful message. May we be molded into their likeness.
Four halos: Redemption and hope are a big part of this sweet film about an orphanage and the children who live there.
Three pitchforks: The sad backstories of the orphans are handled with restraint, but not sugar-coated; children talk about how babies are made; there are scenes of casual bullying.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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