The Stupidity Barrier.
Well, the French are at it again. The Lumiere Brothers helped give birth to the motion picture as we know it through travelogues and the first narrative films, and the French New Wave helped nurture the art form through its troubled adolescence. And, now that film is entering its golden age, France is trying to smother it in its own fecal matter to avoid paying the nursing home fees. France has produced nothing but crap in the last two decades of film history, and movies like Animal are not going to change that. I never once in my life thought that I would hope a film I was watching would turn into a Rob Schneider vehicle, but no more than ten minutes into this one I was praying for Rob to show his bushy hobbit face and change this into a sequel to his irritating 2001 comedy of the same name. I realize that would entail sitting through a painful half hour set-up to a punch-line in which Schneider sniffs a woman’s rear end to the amusement of nobody except the black guy in the back row with pants that have the logos for all the Eastern Conference NBA teams sewn into them, but I was ready for it. You know the guy I mean, by the way. He checks his cell phone every ten minutes or so for text messages, like the annoying blue light from the display screen is on a magic wavelength only he can see, and he snaps his fingers every time someone on-screen makes a joke involving either flatulence or erections. He either always goes to the theatre alone, or is so frightened of being seen in public with another man that he makes his friends go see movies in different cinemas. I’ve named him Tyrell, but it might be Duane’ron.
Now also available with the faces of the Wu-Tang clan in stitched bas-relief.
Animal, the Schneider-free one, is a thriller that manages to borrow a half dozen clichés from stupid American movies, but mangles them up pretty badly by the time they make it on-screen, like when your ex-roommates borrow your Mondo Cane Limited Edition Box Set and return it with what appear to be coffee rings on some of the discs, as if they were using Africa Addio as a coaster while playing Halo until 5 a.m. The film revolves around a PhD student at a European university, who believes he has discovered the chemicals that drive men to murder, and has created an antidote which promises to end violence, promote world peace, and render the exponential replication of CSI spin-offs thankfully redundant. In order to test his drug, he must visit the cell of a serial killer, and have said killer walk around him in a circle saying all kinds of dramatic things while the camera spins around slowly, presumably trying to dizzy us into forgetting that we’ve seen Silence of the Lambs already. When that fails, the grad student scientist injects the killer with the cure, while dosing himself with the reverse-engineered murder-virus, in a dramatic example of what to do if you want to re-make Face-Off but don’t have the budget for any special-effects scenes. Why he does this ridiculous thing is unclear. Perhaps in Europe, thesis dissertations have to follow a strict three-act structure, complete with turning points and weakly conceived plot conceits. Regardless, things quickly go from bad to worse, both in regards to the story and the film, which features some of the most atrocious acting this side of Saved By The Bell.
The worst offender comes in the form of the film’s lead, Andreas Wilson. For some strange reason, despite its French origin, the film is shot in English, which of course leads to the inevitable question as to why they would chose to cast a Swede as the main character. I don’t have anything against the Swedes, though ABBA was almost enough to cross them off my ‘do not cleanse’ list for when I become President, but I can’t understand what they’re saying, even when they’re trying to speak English. And believe me, this movie’s weak script and heavy-handed direction are enough to make it suck with out me struggling to piece together dialogue that was already lame and wounded before being mangled by some Norseman with delusions of pronunciation. I suppose the French can’t be blamed for this, however. As usual, they’re just following the lead of the Americans, who have pioneered the use of inappropriate accents. The highlight of this practice has to be Highlander, my favourite immortal swordsman movie, in which a barely comprehensible Frenchman plays a Scot, and a thickly brogued Scotsman who plays an Arab raised in Spain. Of course, it has some stiff competition, like the IRA hordes of Macedonian soldiers in Alexander, or the fact that, according to Gladiator, Romans all sounded like Eton-educated ponces. Well, I suppose it’s better than the alternative, especially in this film, which would have everyone speaking French, a language that makes everything sound like an obscene sex-toy. Which is not something I’d like to hear Rob Schneider say.