Danny Andrews (Bobby Clark) is an American boy at a Swiss boarding school… but if he has it his way, he won’t be there for long. He has a plan to run away. Janine Duval (Brigitte Fossey), a French student at the same school, has a plan to follow him.
Danny tries to leave Janine behind, but quickly realizes that she’s actually done a lot more planning than he has for this big adventure. She has a little bit of spare change saved up, and has been stowing away extra food for the journey.
It doesn’t take long for the school to realize the two have disappeared, but it is long enough for the kids to cross the French border. After the school contacts them, Danny’s widowed father Mike (Gene Kelly) and Janine’s divorced mother Suzanne (Barbara Laage) set off on a wild goose chase to track the children down.
The Happy Road was directed by none other than Gene Kelly! The screenplay was written by Arthur Julian, Joseph Morhaim and Harry Kurnitz from a story by Julian and Morhaim.
This film offers light-hearted, family-friendly, easy viewing. The miniature masterminds at the center of all of the drama are somehow able to travel hundreds of miles, evading police and their parents the entire way!
It’s mostly fun, but does get a little tiresome as the police keep giving the parents false hope and the kids keep evading capture. This magical ability to evade capture is amusing for the most part, though.
And the cast is fun to watch. Kelly and Laage are a great pair, with tense interactions at first (understandably, since their children are missing), but growing closer as they travel along. The tension and sparring between them bring several chuckles, and they have great chemistry for the more romantic scenes.
Clark and Fossey are slightly less obnoxious than most child actors, and they meet plenty of quirky companions in the French countryside.
Of course, in the real world these kids would face a whole lot more danger than they do in the film. It’s a whimsical, romanticized journey, accompanied by an appropriately charming opening song sung by Maurice Chevalier. The Happy Road is no award-worthy cinema, but it’s a fine, sweet watch for a dull afternoon.