Director: Jan Verheyen | 120 minutes | comedy, romance | Actors: Veerle Baetens, Kevin Janssens, Koen De Graeve, Barbara Sarafian, Matteo Simoni, Jan Van Looveren, Joke Devynck, Kürt Rogiers, Tania Kloek, Michel Van Dousselaere, Sven De Ridder, Peter Bulckaen, Jappe Claes, Herwig Ilegems, Mathijs Scheepers , Mathias Sercu, Lotte Heijtenis, Mike Verdrengh, Véronique Leysen
Jan Verheyen is a man of the easiest way. The Flemish director likes to take a tried-and-tested concept to make it his own variant. He especially likes to use Dutch films as a blueprint. For example, the Belgian version of ‘All Stars’ (1997) is called ‘Team Spirit’ (2000) and Joram Lürsen’s family film ‘In Oranje’ was bastardized to ‘Offside’ (2005). Also by Lürsen is ‘Alles is Liefde’, the romantic comedy from 2007 written by Kim van Kooten and inspired by the British mosaic film ‘Love Actually’ (2003) that attracted 1.3 million people to the cinema. And like many other successful Dutch films, Verheyen was eager to make a Flemish copy of that film. ‘Mad about A.’ (2010) attracted many Flemish people to the halls, but were scorned by the critics. No wonder,
Just like in ‘Alles is Liefde’, ‘Zot van A.’ wondering around Christmas Eve. The death of the actor (Jappe Claes) who has been playing Sinterklaas for years, half an hour before the arrival of the saint in the port of Antwerp, starts the whole thing. Because all the children are already waiting, a replacement must be found quickly. Production assistant Annette (Joke Devynck) manages to get a – not too benevolent – replacement into grumpy ass Jean (Michel van Dousselaere). Wonderfully he turns out to be a hit, especially after he rescues a child from the water upon his arrival. The girl turns out to be the daughter of Arno (Mathias Sercu) and Lydia (Barbara Sarafian), an apparently happily married couple. But behind the scenes there appears to be more going on. Lydia’s best friend is Anna (Veerle Baetens), who is at odds with her ex and now has to bury her father – Saint Nicholas. The funeral is arranged by Fred (Mathijs Scheepers), who is about to get married to his friend Alain (Jan van Looveren), but gets cold feet. Alain’s sister Astrid (Lotte Heijtenis) is waiting for the right one and hesitates to accept the advances of the handsome top tennis player Paul (Kevin Janssens).
This summary will sound familiar to many Dutch people. Verheyen has made no effort to give any individuality to his film. Well, the decor is Antwerp instead of Amsterdam and most of the characters have been renamed, but otherwise ‘Zot van A.’ an exact copy of ‘Everything is Love’. The humor, the romance, the drama – it all fails because we’ve all seen it before. Even the gross Saint (Michiel Romeijn was in that role the undisputed highlight in ‘Everything is Love’) turns out less well in this Flemish version. Of course there was hardly any depth in the Dutch version, but ‘Zot van A.’ makes it impossible to empathize with the characters in the slightest because emotional moments are flattened flat and fleeting.
‘Mad about A.’ is typically such a film that relies on the high proportion of Famous People and although some actors are also known in the Netherlands (Koen Wauters, Kurt Rogiers, Joke Devynck), these BV’ers still appeal to us less than the BN ‘ ers from ‘Alles is Liefde’. What also does not help to embrace this film by Jan Verheyen, is the total lack of authenticity. Verheyen has played a literal copy of ‘Alles is Liefde’. If you haven’t seen that film, you may still be able to enjoy it some fun, although the Flemish production as a whole is of a lesser quality anyway. From a commercial point of view this may have been interesting for Verheyen, but from an artistic point of view he really denies his values as a filmmaker.