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By Merle Bertrand | August 9, 2002

I’m not quite sure why the French have such a ‘tude when it comes to Americans. Okay, we should take the blame for McDonald’s, Wal-Mart and Starbucks. But when you consider that we pretty much saved their bacon twice in the last century, you’d think they might cut us some slack. Then again, when you have ugly Americans such as a geeky Graham Granville (Paul Rudd) and his adopted brother Rex (Romany Malco) representing our country, maybe the French have a point.
The brothers Granville have inherited a French chateau from a great uncle they never met. When they arrive there in the middle of the night to lay claim to their inheritance, they’re met with a frosty reception from their suspicious new employees, the chateau’s staff. First of all, there’s their appearance. Graham, a bespectacled shorts-wearing white geek, and Rex, a gold chain-festooned towering hunk of a very black man are certainly not the typical brothers. Throw in Graham’s mangling of the language — Frenglish? — with Rex’s quickly growing arrogance, and relations start out sour. They head south from there when the brothers, upon realizing the dilapidated state of both the mansion and its finances, decide they must sell the place, which would place the staff out of work and out of their own quarters.
It’s not long before Graham and Rex are at each other’s throats, either, first over how best to deal with their albatross of an estate and second, over a growing rivalry to win the affections of the pretty but aloof maid Isabelle (Sylvie Testud).
“The Chateau” is an unlikely but winning farce from director Jesse Peretz. Once the viewer accepts the huge leaps of faith required in the film’s premise, it’s a lot of fun to strap oneself in and enjoy this goofy ride. Yet, Peretz also allows a subtle air of mystery and foreboding to drift over the film like an ancient fog. Part of this comes from the ultra-grainy look of the film’s DV to 35mm blow-up; the rare time where this actually works to a film’s advantage. This chateau, hundreds of years old, has many stories to tell, this film seems to say. We’re simply witnessing the latest with the odd goings inside “The Chateau.”

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