Picks and Pans Review: À La Mode

updated 08/29/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/29/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Ken Higelin, François Haatesserre, Florence Darel, Jean Yanne

Faced with a bad foreign movie, one wants to leave open the possibility, however remote, that maybe something got lost in the translation. That is the impression left at the end of this jejune 1960s coming-of-age story about a bashful, recently orphaned 17-year-old (Higelin) who, for reasons never made clear, has the women of the town in a swivet. His best buddy is an overweight, slovenly and charming—or so the filmmakers would have us believe—fellow (Hautesserre), whose most salient skill is flatulence; he can "play" Beethoven, and so much more, on cue.

Higelin goes to work as an assistant to a tailor (the enchanting Yanne, who, in the film's best—and only genuinely funny—moments, makes pronouncements involving the fine art of a correct fit). Besotted and inspired by a pretty car mechanic (Darel), Higelin, who up to this point has found it a challenge to sew on buttons, suddenly begins creating his own designs—including one coat constructed of fresh grass and another with four sleeves. While these concoctions are neither witty nor endearingly goofy, audiences are asked to believe that le tout Paris goes gaga. Higelin may win the girl, but À La Mode won't win over the audience. (R)

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