Opening with a car cruising along to a Chuck Berry song, The Valet announces its throwback intentions right away. The latest film from veteran French writer-director Francis Veber features his recurring everyman, François Pignon (played this time by Elmaleh), as a Paris valet who gets caught in the background of a paparazzo shot depicting wealthy businessman Pierre (Auteuil) with his supermodel mistress, Elena (Taglioni). Desperately hoping to avoid a messy divorce, Pierre asks Elena to move into François’s apartment for a few days, hoping to convince both the media and his suspicious wife that the two are a couple.
Fleshing out this agreeably silly premise with absurd contrivances, stock characters and rat-a-tat punch lines, The Valet aims squarely for old-fashioned farce. Some of the comic ideas fly, as when François and Elena find themselves stalked by dueling private investigators. But too much time is wasted on moldy broad comedy, and the grinding gears of the plot are practically audible throughout. Most of The Valet feels as if it could have been made decades ago, but it retains a certain quaint charm; like its hero, this unassuming comedy is nothing special to look at, but too sweet to despise.