Côte d'Azur

Opens Fri., Oct. 7, at Varsity.

And what did you do for summer vacation? Somehow I doubt any of our postcards and mementos are going to measure up against those of the Biancheri family during their eventful stay in the south of France. Including mother Béatrix (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi), father Marc (Gilbert Melki), and teenage son Charly (Romain Torres), the clan inherits an aunt's old stone villa with an ocean view. Down there in the Mediterranean, we're told, swim and crawl various aphrodisiacs, and many jokes are made about their eroto-gastronomic properties—aquatic Viagra with claws and scales. (There's even a song about it, which gets performed by the cast.) None of these jokes is funny to American viewers, however, who may identify most with older daughter Laura when she bolts the place early to be with her boyfriend. Smart girl.

Neither fast nor funny enough to be a sex farce, Côte d'Azur is more of a wishful, sunny manifesto. "It's wrong to want things clear-cut, square, or ordinary," says Marc. "Let nature have its way." Ah, nature—meaning Charly masturbating incessantly in the shower (draining the villa's supply of hot water), his gay teen pal (Edouard Collin) parading around like a man magnet, his mother packing an homme-on-the-side, and the appearance of the handsomest plumber on the Riviera (Jean-Marc Barr), who knows whose pipes need cleaning. Nudge, nudge.

Côte d'Azur presents itself as a beachside blending of Jacques Demy and Eric Rohmer, but there's not enough music or soul to merit comparison. The likable ensemble deserves better—especially Bruni-Tedeschi, who does the greatest "I'm too stoned to get out of this lawn chair and slap you" scene I've ever watched, and the virile Barr, the kind of man Vin Diesel wishes he could be. The sandy scenery also gets squandered with lazy lensing and editing; it looks like the crew of co-directors Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau went on vacation during their shoot. Generous but sloppy, Côte d'Azur could beneficially be remade as a Chevy Chase vehicle: National Lampoon's Bisexual Vacation. Except, Chevy, please— no Speedos. (NR)

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