Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and beloved by audiences and critics alike, My Life as a Zucchini is a delightful and touching tale about the uplifting power of friendship in the face of adversity. After befriending a kind police officer, nine-year-old Zucchini is taken to a foster home filled with other orphans his age. Though he struggles to find his place at first, with the help of his new friends, Zucchini learns to trust and love again as he searches for a new family of his own. With a band of unforgettable characters you'll be cheering for, My Life as a Zucchini stands as a testament to the resilience of the human heart.
More and more people are defining family by the company they keep, rather than the blood that binds them. The concept of the traditional nuclear family is all but busted. It may work for some, but sometimes life's extenuating circumstances dictates an alternative. With My Life As A Zucchini, director Claude Barras explores the definition of family through the lens of despair but never loses sight of hope. With an American voice cast that includes Nick Offerman, Erick Abbate, Ness Krell, Amy Sedaris, and Will Forte, the simple and colorful stop-motion animation combine with a terrific heartfelt story to create an absolutely wonderful film.
Every child deserves a family who loves them. Unfortunately for young Icare (Erick Abbate), life hasn't treated him so kindly. His father left him and his mother when he was a small boy and his mother spends her days drinking and calling little Icare by his nickname "Zucchini." When his mother dies in an accident, little Zucchini is introduced the kind and understanding policeman Raymond (Nick Offerman) to evaluate his case. With no other family to care for him, Zucchini is entered into the foster care system. At first, life is tough. Zucchini is frequently bullied and made sport of - but soon he finds his place in this crowd of misfits and starts to belong. When the enchanting Camille (Ness Krell) comes to live at the home, Zucchini quickly falls for the girl. As the pair become fast friends, Zucchini's new life of relative happiness is endangered when Camille's Aunt Ida (Amy Sedaris) tries to claim the girl as a dependent for the government check it would get her.
Maybe it's from my days watching old Gumby shorts as a kid, but there's something about stop-motion animation that just grabs my attention. Whenever a new feature film makes its way to theaters, I do my best to catch it on the big screen so I can revel in its glory. Unfortunately, in the case of My Life As A Zucchini, the limited run combined with the time of year it was released became a perfect scheduling storm kept me away from experiencing this wonderful piece of work in a theater. I'm glad I've got this Blu-ray because this is a wonderful film that I'm going to need to revisit a few more times. It's emotional without being trite. It's sentimental without exploiting the audience's feelings in any given moment. Nothing is taken for granted.
Whether you're enjoying the film's original French dialogue or the American cast's great dubbed version, My Life As A Zucchini is pure charm. While we're sad at the circumstances we find our titular character in, we never feel bad for him. There's never a sense that he's worse for wear. it may not be great, but there's always a sense of hope and an understanding that time moves on. When he's initially being bullied by the brash and obnoxious Simon (Romy Beckman), you think life for Zucchini is going to be just as bad at the foster home as it was living with his mother. But then you learn Simon's story and you see that the pair aren't that different from one another and understand their friendship is inevitable.
Mirrored with Zucchini's story is the police officer Raymond voiced by Nick Offerman. Raymond is a lot like Zucchini in that he's part of an endless routine. He doesn't have a family himself, but by visiting Zucchini at the foster home, he gets to know all of the kids there and become part of their ragtag makeshift family unit. They may not have been born by blood a family, but they quickly become one. When one of them is in trouble, they're all in trouble so they work together to fix the problem.
It's not surprising to see that this film was nominated for Best Animated Feature Film at this year's Academy Awards. The simple but elegant stop motion animation coupled with the terrific story make it an earnest contender. Considering that Zootopia, Moana, The Red Turtle and Kubu and the Two Strings were all nominees (Zootopia being the winner), 2017 was some impressively tough competition for that category. I wouldn't necessarily say that My Life As A Zucchini was a better film than Zootopia or any of the other nominated films on that list, but I feel like it was the most rewarding for an adult audience. While the film's animation style is that of a child's Play-Doh creation, this film deals with some pretty heavy themes in an adult way. This isn't to say that kids won't exactly "get it" but it certainly isn't a film about bunnies or a Hawaiian goddess. In a way, it's much more human than that and has quickly wriggled its way into my heart as one of my favorite movies of the year. If you haven't checked out My Life As A Zucchini do make the time.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
My Life As A Zucchini debuts on Blu-ray courtesy of Universal Pictures in a two-disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD set. The discs are housed in a standard two-disc Blu-ray case with identical slipcover artwork. The disc opens with trailers for other animated Universal Pictures releases before arriving at an animated main menu with traditional navigation options.
My Life As A Zucchini arrives on Blu-ray with a well detailed, colorful, and pleasing 1.85:1 transfer. The film's stop-motion animation is fluid and beautifully detailed allowing audiences to take in the intricate sculpting work of the characters as well as the simple backgrounds and sets. Colors, in spite of the film's somber tone, are bright and primary rich. Blues are bright blue, reds are bright and crimson, while yellows appear warm and inviting. Black levels are inky black and provide a rich sense of depth to the image with plenty of shadow separation. The only slight issue is a couple of fleeting instances of banding, but they're so slight that one may miss them entirely, but I felt they were worth a mention just the same. All around this is a problem-free, gorgeous presentation fans of stop-motion animation will enjoy.
My Life As A Zucchini arrives with two audio tracks, the original French with English subtitles and an English dubbed, both presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1. As to which one is better, that's going to come down to personal taste. Usually when it comes to foreign feature films I tend to side with the original native language, but in this case, the English dubbing works beautifully. Compared to the English subtitles supplied for the French audio mix, the English dubbing is a solid translation with only small colloquial differences. In both cases, voices are clear and precise without any overlap or interference from sound effects and the film's wonderful score from Sophie Hunger. Sound effects are minimal but effective and balance out the audio mix ensuring that there is plenty of surround activity. Most activity keeps to the center/front channels with the sides providing the ambients and atmosphere elements. All around these are two terrific audio mixes.
The supplemental package may not be plentiful or all too extensive but it does offer up some interesting bits, especially the making of content is worth taking a look at.
The Making of My Life As A Zucchini (HD 18:18) Presented in French with English subtitles, this is a very interesting look at the making of the film, the filmmaker's inspiration, drawing from the original source material, camera work, posing the armatures. It may not be very long, but it's a great watch.
The Genie in a Tin of Ravioli Short Film (HD 7:43) This is a nice short animated film.
Trailer (HD 1:45)
My Life As A Zucchini is a thoughtful and wonderful little movie. It deals earnestly with the evolving definition of family in a way that doesn't pull punches but doesn't tear itself down into the dumps. It may be heavy, but it's always fun and sweet-natured. Adults may get more joy out of this film than children but it isn't necessarily out of their reach either.
Universal Pictures brings My Life As A Zucchini Blu-ray in terrific order with a splendid A/V presentation. Bonus feature content may be slim but it is informative material. At the end of the day, I'm calling My Life As A Zucchini highly recommended. I can see this one becoming a fast favorite for many.