As this big weekend kicks off, it seems entirely appropriate to be reviewing the last of this year’s Oscar nominees to be released in U.S. theaters. That would be the wondrous Swiss animated feature My Life As A Zucchiniwhich Gkids opens today in both its original French as well as English-language version. It seems like we have been talking about this charmer for months — and we have. As I say in my video review above, the film made its debut as Ma Vie un Courgette in Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes in May and pulled off the rare feat of being a semifinalist with eight other films for the Best Foreign Language Oscar (it was Switzerland’s official entry) and now a nominee for Best Animated Feature among many other honors it has received — including a pair or César Awards today for Animated Feature and Adapted Screenplay — and they are all well deserved.

pete hammond review badge

The first film from director Claude Barras, it’s based on the children’s book Autobiography Of A Zucchini, but it definitely is not just for kids. In fact, the material about a newly orphaned boy and the other outcasts he comes to know at an orphanage is uncompromising and highly more sophisticated stuff than the usual things we see in toon features. However, it has been ridiculously rated PG-13 in America, which is a shame since this is one the whole family should share together.

It revolves around a young boy whose life with his alcoholic mother ends tragically, landing him in an orphanage where all the other kids also come from a troubled background. Still, they are basically good, and the movie charts their adventures together as well as Zucchini’s relationship with Raymond, the nice policeman who befriends him, and with Camille, another new kid who arrives and really livens up these kids’ lives. A ski trip is a particularly exciting and eye-opening outing for the group, but this is really a character-driven animated delight that says much about coming out of darkness to the brighter side of the human condition and also has much to say about adoption and the importance of finding or creating a family.

At only 70 minutes, My Life As A Zucchini packs a lot onto the screen. Using the magical but time-consuming stop-motion animation process, it has a unique and glorious look that trumps more standard computer generated animated films. The English-language version, obviously created for kids who don’t read subtitles, features the voices of Will Forte, Amy Sedaris, Nick Offerman and Ellen Page among others, but I would highly recommend seeing it in the original French if you can. Producers are Marc Bonny, Armelle Glorennec, Michel Merkt, Kate Merkt, Pauline Gygax and Max Karli.

Do you plan to see My Life As A Zucchini? Let us know what you think.