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Film / The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob

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"Bah! I will keep you anyway..."
The Brick Joke showing Pivert Character Development

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When you manage to make a racist funny AND likable, you know you are a great actor
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Les Aventures de Rabbi Jacob (The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob), often shortened to Rabbi Jacob, is a 1973 French cult comedy directed by Gérard Oury. It stars Louis de Funès in one of his most famous roles.

Jacob (Marcel Dalio) is a beloved rabbi from New York who has lived there for 30 years. One day, the French side of his family, the Schmolls, invite him to preside over the Bar Mitzvah of his young nephew David. Jacob boards a plane to leave America for his birthland of France, and his young friend Rabbi Samuel comes with him.

Meanwhile in France, Victor Pivert (De Funès), a chauvinistic, bad-tempered and slightly 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 agents from the regime he fights against, who are led by Farès (Renzo Montagnani).

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Now on the run from both Farès and the French police, Pivert and Slimane bound and gag two rabbis at the very airport Jacob is awaited to by the Schmoll family and take their clothes to disguise. Pivert is then mistaken for Jacob by the Schmolls, and brought into the Jewish community of the Pletzl, in Paris. Hilarity Ensues.


The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob provides examples of:

  • Accidental Pervert: Farès, searching for Pivert and Slimane at the airport, tries the women's restroom and gets slapped for his troubles.
  • 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-Jacob: He'll say yes!
    Salomon: Will he triple them?
    Pivert-as-Jacob: He'll... say no.
  • Arranged Marriage:
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    • Antoinette (Pivert's daughter) is implied to be in one with Alexandre.
    • Esther Schmoll wants to marry Slimane to a redhead.
  • Ash Face: When expressing his disapproval with gestures at the sight of the mixed marriage he just bumped into, Pivert stands behind the married couple's car. They start the car and the bursting tailpipe covers him in ash. It results in a Black Face gag, with a wedding guest thinking he's the married black woman's father. That gag would have probably been offensive with any other actor, but De Funès made it work. It also qualifies as a short Color Me Black moment, considering Pivert's slightly racist outlook on things.
  • 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.
    • Later, while talking to one of Farès's men on the phone (thinking he's a policeman), Pivert comments that he can see Farès right here, through the office's window... Cue Oh, Crap!
    • 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). She leaves him the day of their marriage for a man she's never met before. Although it's implied it was an Arranged Marriage.
  • The Drag-Along: Pivert is mostly useless when it comes to help Slimane.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect:
    • The intro sequence in New York features the World Trade Center towers prominently in several shots.
    • The final credits are over a shot of the Eiffel Tower.
  • Face Palm: Slimane at the sight of Pivert/Rabbi Jacob dragged into the dance.
  • False Teeth Tomfoolery: As Germaine Pivert talks to her husband, she slams repeatedly on a table at her dentist's office, making several sets of false teeth open and close.
  • Fiery Redhead: Germaine (Pivert's wife) has red hair, and a fiery temper.
  • Foreshadowing: Pivert is married to a redhead, which is a hint that their daughter is also a redhead.
  • 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.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The government of the unnamed country Slimane and Farès are coming from. They are the ones who sent Farès and his men to discreetly eliminate Slimane while he's in France to prevent his revolution from succeeding.
  • 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!
  • Has a Type: Mohammed Larbi Slimane has big thing for redheads.
  • Henpecked Husband: Likely with Pivert and his wife.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Mohammed Larbi Slimane can't resist a redhead.
  • Hidden Depths: Victor Pivert is an aging businessman. The famous scene of the Hasidic dance scene in the Rue des Rosiers shows that he's also a great dancer, especially since he knew nothing of the dance beforehand.
  • Identity Impersonator: The two protagonists.
  • Impersonating an Officer: Farès makes Pivert believe he's a police officer while having him 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?
  • Japanese Tourist: When Pivert emerges from the luggage carrousel at the airport, a bunch of Japanese tourists immediately start taking pictures.
  • 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.
  • Mean Boss: Pivert is quite mean toward all his employees, whether they work at his usine, or as his driver like Salomon.
    Pivert: I forbid them to go on strike! You do as usual: you promise everything and I give nothing!
  • 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 Farès 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 wears these to emphasize the fact that he's the Big Bad.
  • 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.
  • Throat-Slitting Gesture: Farès is fond of doing this, mostly every time he sees either Slimane or Pivert.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Pivert starts out as this, being a racist Jerkass with a 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

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