A surprisingly likable French comedy with wit and pathos at its core, and another solid international acquisition for Netflix.
Watching and reviewing comedy is always a pain, and it’s even more of a nuisance when I, an English speaker, have to critique a foreign-language comedy. Did I catch all the references? Am I missing some kind of cultural nuance? Are the French all, as I suspect, truly despicable? These are important questions that a critic should be able to answer, especially in relation to Family Business, a new six-part French comedy series that arrived on Netflix today.
Good news! It’s very much okay. The jokes mostly land. The characters are mostly interesting and have an enjoyable dynamic. And what’s more, is that there’s some genuinely solid writing, pathos, and heart here. It won’t be for everyone, but stuff that’s offbeat and quirky never is.
And the premise of Family Business is solid too. When a family-run butcher’s shop faces looming financial ruin, the impending legalization of marijuana gives the entrepreneurial son a spark of inspiration. He wants to turn the shop into a marijuana store, and the bulk of Family Business Season 1 (predictably things are left open for a sequel) is about the rest of the family gradually warming up to that idea. Shenanigans ensue.
Some of those shenanigans are predictable. Has there ever been a series about getting into the drug business that didn’t eventually involve some generally well-meaning individuals getting mixed up with hardened criminals? But for the most part Family Business does well to bypass these predictable tropes by injecting some genuine character drama and relevant themes. The balance between lighthearted slapstick and familial drama is usually maintained, and while the humor can sometimes err on the side of easy crudity or overblown silliness, it’s rarely truly off-putting. This is a solid international acquisition for Netflix, another to add to a vast library, and is well worth your time this weekend if you have it spare.