Little Zizou, written and directed by acclaimed writer Sooni Tarporewala, is a paean to the Parsi community. Sooni, who has also done a critically lauded photography book on the Parsis, recreates a world she knows intimately.
The Little Zizou in the title is an eleven-year-old boy Xerxes, played by Jahan Battivala, who is crazy about the French football player Zinedine Zidane. Xerxes calls himself Little Zizou and spends his time fantasizing that his dead mother, who he assumes is now an angel, will somehow transport Zidane to India.
His older brother Artazerxes, played by the charming Imaad Shah, is a graphic artist, who along with two friends, is on an improbable quest to convert a junked cockpit into a flight simulator.
Their imperious father Cyrus Khodaiji, played by Sohrab Ardeshir, is a self-proclaimed healer and protector of the Parsi faith. Khodaiji initiates a Back-to-Purity movement and assembles the PLO or Parsis? Liberation Organization. Khodaiji?s fundamentalism and fear-mongering is staunchly opposed by a progressive newspaper editor Boman Pressvala played by Boman Irani.
Little Zizou narrates this clash through Xerxes? eyes. With a gentle wit, Sooni points out the follies of narrow-mindedness and makes a strong plea for love and tolerance.
What works for Little Zizou is Sooni?s familiarity with this world. She creates an affectionate portrait of a unique and whimsical culture.
There are some lovely moments ? Xerxes pines for his mother but his friend who has a mother wishes that he didn?t so he too could spend the day at the cyber caf?; Artazerxes? computer password is son of psycho; and a half-Parsi half-Italian boy is named Tito Fellini.
The comedy has an underpinning of sadness and loss ? Pressvala?s mother-in-law lives alone at a ruined hotel, ironically called The Majestic and almost seems like a metaphor for the fast dwindling Parsi community.
The characters are compelling but ultimately and ironically what lets Sooni down is her script. Little Zizou is well-meaning and heartfelt but also frustratingly diffuse.
The narrative glue between the moments simply isn?t strong enough. The film itself becomes whimsical and meandering and eventually just boring. I found the flight simulator track, which is supposed to suggest that you must follow your dream no matter how crazy it is, especially unconvincing.
And in the end, the several narrative threads are tied up a bit too neatly and hurriedly ? the cockpit stumps everyone but suddenly, an aeronautical engineer who also happens to be a really hot chick, randomly shows up.
Sooni?s earlier scripts like The Namesake and Salaam Bombay left so much felt but unsaid. Inexplicably in Little Zizou, she insists on underlining with a heavy hand. So in the climax, we even have an awkward speech on the importance of love.
Little Zizou is in equal parts, charming and patchy. You will need lots of patience for this one.