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Film / The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob

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Les Aventures de Rabbi Jacob (The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob) is a 1973 French cult comedy directed by Gérard Oury. It stars Louis de Funès in one of his most famous roles.

Rabbi Jacob (Marcel Dalio) is a beloved rabbi from New York. One day, the French side of his family, the Schmolls, invite him to celebrate the Bar Mitzvah of his young nephew David. Rabbi Jacob boards a plane to leave America for his birthland of France after more than 30 years of American life. His young friend Rabbi Samuel comes with him.

Meanwhile in France, Victor Pivert (De Funès), a chauvinistic, bad-tempered and a little xenophobic businessman, is on the way to his daughter's wedding. He and his driver, Salomon (Henri Guybet), have a car accident in which Pivert's car (carrying a speed boat) flips upside-down into a lake. When Salomon, who is Jewish, refuses to help because Shabbat has just begun, Pivert fires him, much to Salomon's content. As Pivert goes to find assistance in an empty bubblegum factory, he involuntarily helps Mohammed Larbi Slimane (Claude Giraud), an Arab revolutionist leader, to escape a group of Secret Police killers led by Farès (Renzo Montagnani). On the run from both Farès' killers and the French police, they disguise themselves as rabbis at the airport. Pivert is then mistaken for Rabbi Jacob by the Schmoll family, and brought into a Jewish community. Hilarity Ensues.


The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob provides examples of:

  • An Aesop: Throughout the journey, Pivert will learn to overcome his religious and ethnical prejudices.
  • All Jews Are Cheapskates: Played with in one scene, where Pivert (disguised as a rabbi) is negotiating with Salomon (the only one who knows him) to get him his job back. Pivert himself is obviously a cheapstake, but now that he's in costume...
    Salomon: Rabbi, I have a question. My boss just fired me because I don't work on Saturdays. What should I do?
    Pivert-as-Rabbi Jacob: Go see him and ask him to hire you again, he'll say yes! Ask him to give you a raise he'll say yes!
    Salomon: Will he double my wages?
    Pivert-as-Rabbi Jacob: He'll say yes!
    Salomon: Will he triple them?
    Pivert-as-Rabbi Jacob: He'll... say no.
  • Arranged Marriage:
    • Antoinette (Pivert's daughter), obviously.
    • Advertisement:
    • Esther Schmoll wants to marry Slimane to a redhead.
  • Ash Face: From a bursting tailpipe. Results in a Black Face gag that would have probably been offensive with any other actor, but De Funès made it work.
  • Badass Boast:
    Slimane: Revolution is like a bicycle! When the wheels don't turn, it falls!
    Pivert: Eddy Merckx?
    Mook: No, Che Guevara.
  • Beard of Evil: Farès is the film's villain, and he's bearded.
  • Black Gal on White Guy Drama: Spoofed when Pivert is flabbergasted at the sight of a mixed marriage.
  • Captain Obvious: "Salomon? You're Jewish?"
  • Character Development: Blatant in Pivert's case. He starts out as a racist Jerkass with Hair-Trigger Temper. He gets better over the course of the movie.
  • Clown Car: A number of people accompany Jacob to the airport and they all get into the same taxi, yet the first shots of Jacob and Samuel on the road give the impression that they're only two on the backseats of the taxi.
    Taxi driver: Hey! This is a taxi, not a synagogue!
  • Coincidental Accidental Disguise: Pivert and Slimane are mistaken for Rabbi Jacob and his friend Rabbi Samuel by the Schmoll family, and they find themselves driven to the welcoming committee that is waiting for Jacob's arrival in the middle of the Pletzl (the main Jewish quarter in Paris).
  • Covered in Gunge: The bubblegum factory sequence. First Pivert (twice), then each of the bad guys including Farès himself, ends up falling into a huge vat of green liquid gum, and stay covered in the stuff for most the scene.
  • Delayed Reaction:
    • One of Farès' mooks guarding the bubblegum factory corrects Pivert (as seen in Badass Boast above) before realizing that maybe he should worry about the intruder who just talked.
    • Also Farés at the Gas station, who just gives Slimane a passing by look before realizing that the man he's chasing is in the nearby car.
  • Depraved Dentist:
    • Well, not so depraved than "in-a-hurry-'cause-she's-marrying-her-daughter-today", but Pivert's dentist wife is still seen doing a rather half-assed job on her poor patient.
    • Later, Farès threatens to torture her with her own instruments.
  • Disposable Fiancé: Alexandre (Pivert's daughter's fiancé)
  • The Drag-Along: Pivert is mostly useless when it comes to help Slimane.
  • Face Palm: Slimane at the sight of Pivert/Rabbi Jacob dragged into the dance.
  • Fiery Redhead: Germaine (Pivert's wife) has a fiery temper.
  • The Full Name Adventures
  • George Jetson Job Security: Pivert fires Salomon as they are stuck on a river in the middle of nowhere... because Salomon leaves him there since it's shabbat and he's forbidden to work.
  • The Ghost: We will never see who is and what does Thérèse Leduc look like.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: Some Gratuitous Arabic.
  • Hand Wave:
    David: Tell me Rabbi, why don't you have a beard?
    Slimane: Because I lent it to someone who didn't have one. Come!
  • Happy Ending
  • Henpecked Husband: Likely with Pivert and his wife.
  • Heroes Want Redheads:
    • Mohammed Larbi Slimane can't resist a redhead.
    • Pivert is married to a redhead, which is a hint that their daughter is also a redhead.
  • Identity Impersonator: The two protagonists.
  • Impersonating an Officer: Farès, on the phone. Twice.
  • Inspector Javert: Commissioner Andréani
  • Instant Expert: Pivert is dragged into a Hassidic dance and keeps up surprisingly well, despite being quite a clumsy individual and obviously never doing it before. It was "A miracle" according to him.
  • I Resemble That Remark!:
    David Schmoll: How are we going to recognize Uncle Jacob? The only one who know him is granny, and she can't see a thing...
    Granny Schmoll: What do you mean, I can't hear a thing?
  • Jewish Mother:
    • Rabbi Jacob's wife is this for her husband.
    • Esther Schmoll
  • Just Following Orders: Farès only follows orders from the dictatorship he serves. As soon as Slimane is proclaimed as new ruler of his country, he bows down and apologizes.
  • Love at First Sight: Antoinette and Slimane.
  • Mistaken for an Imposter: Poor Rabbi Jacob (the real one) gets his beard pulled twice when he's mistaken for Pivert.
  • Mugged for Disguise: Two rabbis at the airport, by Slimane and Pivert.
  • Nerd: Alexandre, the groom.
  • Nice Hats
    • Traditional Hassidic hats.
    • The shtreimel offered to Pivert.
  • Nice Jewish Boy:
    • Salomon, even though he's quite bitter towards his boss (for very good reasons).
    • Special mention goes to the guys who accompany Rabbi Jacob to the airport. Their cab ends up stuck in a traffic jam and time is running out, so what do they do? Lift the cab and carry it to the free part of the road.
      Rabbi Jacob: You see my boy? Always believe in miracles.
  • Pie in the Face: Commissioner Andréani receives the cheesecake that was intended for David's Bar Mitzvah in the face, courtesy of Rabbi Samuel.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Pivert's wife is dressed for the wedding.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Pivert, although he's not exactly a hero at first.
  • Pornstache: Slimane. It was a trademark of Claude Giraud, the actor who played him.
  • Qurac: Slimane's fictional Arab country.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Slimane's kidnapping was based on the disappearance of Mehdi Ben Barka in 1965.
  • Secondary Character Title
  • Shown Their Work: The movie was co-written by a rabbi, Josy Eisenberg.
  • Slippery Skid: Victor Pivert is chased by Fares and his lieutenant inside the bubblegum factory. When cornered, he opens up a huge holder of bubblegum beads, sending them rolling under his pursuers' feet. After doomed efforts at staying upright, they finally fall and skid down some stairs, and then down a chute to end up into a vat of green liquid gum.
  • Sinister Shades: Farès
  • Standard Snippet: What the music for the Hassidic dance has become. It wasn't an authentic one but specially made for the movie, though still inspired by traditional Hassidic music. Still, it has been readily adopted by the French Jew community, and you can often hear it at Bar Mitzvah or Jewish weddings.
  • Sticky Situation: After falling into a vat of liquid bubblegum, Pivert has some trouble with stuff sticking to him, including the buttons of a phone or the chair he sits into.
  • Straight Man: Slimane to Pivert. Claude Giraud plays him completely straight, as if in a serious action movie, perfectly balancing De Funès' comedy.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Pivert starts out as this, being a racist Jerkass with Hair-Trigger Temper. He gets better over the course of the movie.
  • With Due Respect: The argument between Salomon and Pivert.
  • Yiddish as a Second Language