Little Indian, Big City (France, 1995)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Little Indian, Big City, the American name given to Herve Palud's 1995 French fish-out-of-water comedy, L'Indian dans la Ville, is easily one of the most tedious viewing experiences of 1996. I came as close to walking out of this movie as anything I have ever watched. No one, no matter how desperate they are for family entertainment, should be subjected to the indignity of sitting through this ninety-minute excuse for a motion picture.

Little Indian, Big City seems to take equal parts "inspiration" (and I use that word very loosely) from Francois Truffaut's 1970 feature, The Wild Child, and Paul Hogan's Crocodile Dundee. However, while Truffaut's movie was thoughtful and Hogan's was fanciful, Palud's is just plain moronic. The script is kindergarten level, the protagonists are irritating caricatures, the acting is nonexistent, and the editing is embarrassingly haphazard.

Thierry Lhermitte plays Stephan, a workaholic stock broker who's trying to obtain divorce papers from his wife, Patricia (Miou-Miou), so he can marry his current girlfriend, space cadet Charlotte (Arielle Dombasle). Thirteen years ago, Patricia left Stephan for the deepest reaches of Venezuela's rain forest, so Stephan goes searching there. Eventually, he finds her, but she's not alone. She has a son, Mimi-Siku (Ludwig Briand), who also happens to be Stephan's. Through a series of contrivances too silly to explain, Mimi-Siku ends up in Paris, where he impresses Dad by shooting arrows into pigeons, setting his pet tarantula loose in Stephan's apartment, roaming the streets half-naked, and climbing the Eiffel Tower.

Little Indian, Big City is one of those comedies that's almost never funny. The single amusing sequence takes place inside a carnival haunted house, where Mimi-Siku mistakes costumed workers for real threats. It's worth about two chuckles. Other than that, however, the humor is consistently lame. Are we supposed to laugh when the jungle boy offers his father monkey guts? Or when he roasts tropical fish over an open fire? Or when he chows down on cat food? And those are the high points. As for the feeble attempts at father/son bonding... this is the kind of formulaic regurgitation that makes Getting Even With Dad look good by comparison.

Hollywood is often condemned as the chief producer of bad family films, but rarely does an American studio come up with something this unwatchable. For some reason, Little Indian, Big City was a big hit in its native country, so Touchstone Pictures purchased the U.S. rights, dubbed the voices into English (complete with the expected poor synchronization of lip movements with words), and distributed prints to multiplexes. Some might argue that Little Indian, Big City would have worked better with subtitles. I doubt that. No matter what language the movie is in, the operative word for it is mal.

Little Indian, Big City (France, 1995)

Director: Herve Palud
Cast: Thierry Lhermitte, Ludwig Briand, Patrick Timsit, Arielle Dombasle, Miou-Miou
Screenplay: Herve Palud and Igor Aptekman
Cinematography: Fabio Conversi
Music: Manu Katche
U.S. Distributor: Touchstone Pictures
Run Time: 1:30
U.S. Release Date: 1996-03-22
MPAA Rating: "PG"
Subtitles: Dubbed into English from the original French
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1