Three Parisians who thoroughly enjoy the bachelor lifestyle are holding a party in the apartment they share when one of the partygoers takes Jacques (Roland Giraud) aside and asks him to hold onto a package for him the next day. Jacques is somewhat distracted by the woman he's absorbed in chatting up, and after ushering him out the door all thoughts of the package slip from his mind. The morning arrives, and Jacques has to leave for his work as an air steward: he's off to Thailand for a month, so after bidding farewell to the woman he spent the night with, he is soon at the airport. Just as he is about to board the plane, he remembers the package and hastily telephones his flatmates, Michel (Michel Boujenah) and Pierre (André Dussollier) to warn them. However, what turns up on their doorstep is something none of them expected...
Yes, it's a little baby. Back in the eighties, there was a famous poster featuring a handsome model holding a tiny infant to his manly chest, and that would appear to explain the popularity of 3 Hommes et un Couffin, or 3 Men and a Cradle as it was known in English. Only this is meant to evoke laughs as the three bachelors at first hopelessly attempt to look after the child while finding out what is supposed to be going on, and gradually growing attached to her until the sentimentality overload of the ending. If you've never seen this but it sounds familiar all the same, that's because you've probably watched the Hollywood remake, Three Men and a Baby.
This original version, however, has a lot more character, although it doesn't have a ghost/cardboard cut out of Ted Danson (delete as applicable) lurking in the frame. Of course, the baby, named Marie (Gwendoline Mourlet and Jennifer Moret), is not the package that was referred to at the start of the film, but that's what the near-hysterical Michel and Pierre think, and when the actual package arrives, it is tossed onto the sofa by the front door and forgotten about. Worse, when two dodgy geezers show up to take the parcel which the flatmates don't know contains heroin, they hand over Marie in a case of mistaken identity.
This first act is like a thriller more than anything else, as Michel and Pierre panic and take Marie back, but a nosey policeman interrupts them before the drugs can be handed over. Now the law are involved and watching, the crooks ransack the apartment, and the heroin has to be hidden in the baby's nappy; as all this goes on, Jacques is unwittingly living it up abroad. After about half and hour or so, the thrills are worked out and the comedy takes over, with Michel and Pierre finding looking after babies is a full time job, and when Jacques finally returns he realises that the child is his, the product of one of his many one night stands. The moral is that sleeping around is all very well, but you should really settle down eventually because after all, babies are so cute that your life is not complete without one. So when Marie's wayward mother (Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu) takes her away again, the men suffer a big hole in their lives - a baby-shaped hole. Even the hardest hearts would be melted by the warm charm here, yes it's silly, and about ninety percent of the film is arguing, but it is amusing. Director and writer Coline Serreau followed this with a sequel featuring the same actors eighteen years later.
[Tartan's Region 2 DVD has but a trailer as its sole special feature.]