A light, breezy comedy with a thoughtful thematic undercurrent, but leans a bit heavily against its easiest gags.
School reunions are usually attended by two types of people: Those who psychologically never left high school in the first place, and those couldn’t leave fast enough and are only returning to prove a point. The new French comedy Back to School, now streaming on Netflix, concerns the latter. Two former students attend their high-school reunion to flaunt their success, but predictably things don’t go quite to plan.
Relying on easy crude humour, a light touch and a case of mistaken identity, Back to School, known as La Grande Classe in its native language, is operating in familiar territory. It isn’t doing anything new in its approach — and it doesn’t particularly care, either. This is the kind of comedy that knows it has a built-in audience and knows also how to play to that audience, leveraging universal themes of bullying, friendship, and getting older.
Enjoyable chemistry among the cast — especially the two leads — really helps the film’s gags land, especially since the wonky English dub fights them at every turn. And the emotional undercurrent has the capacity to surprise, even if it seems less of a priority for Back to School than having a laugh does. At under 90 minutes, this is also a refreshingly pacey film that knows exactly when to get out of its own way.