There are slivers of wit embedded in the broad shtick of "Let My People Go!," a home-for-the-holidays romantic comedy for which home is a noisy Parisian clan, the holiday is Passover and the prodigal son is a gay 30ish mailman whose usual state of mind is the tizzies.
The road to the inevitable slapsticky Seder is paved with more sweetness than bite, a good deal of frantic foolishness and progressively thinner laughs, all wrapped in a message of acceptance and inclusiveness.
Scripted by first-time director Mikael Buch and art-house auteur Christophe Honoré, the farce is by turns fresh and fusty. The shenanigans spin around Ruben (Nicolas Maury), who delivers mail in a candy-colored Finnish town. An incident on his route presents a dilemma that he and his boyfriend, Teemu (Jarkko Niemi), view very differently.
Before Teemu sends Ruben packing, their ethical debate seamlessly devolves into an argument over the quality of French actresses — a nice bit of byplay that promises a more finely tuned brand of humor than what ensues.
What does ensue is a family tsoris machine cranked to 11. Ruben's visit inspires an aggressive act of unburdening by his father (Jean-François Stévenin), while his mother (Almodóvar fave Carmen Maura) stars in a fantasy-sequence commercial for a product that spritzes instant Jewishness.
The buffoonery escalates with the madcap pursuit of Ruben by a widower (Jean-Luc Bideau) that falls short of the intended hilarity, like a good portion of this openhearted comedy.
"Let My People Go!" No MPAA rating; in French and Finnish with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes. At Laemmle's Royal, West Los Angeles; Laemmle's Town Center 5, Encino.