review wrong

Note: Rob Hunter’s review originally ran during Fantastic Fest 2012, but we’re re-running it now as the film opens in limited theatrical release.

Weirdness has its place in cinema. It can be a fun element in everything from comedies to horror films or used to add a lighter texture to serious topics, but the one thing it can’t be is the only thing.

Quentin Dupieux‘s first feature, the innocuously titled Rubber, is one of the most absurd films of the past several years. Its core plot follows a tire that comes to life and begins exploding peoples’ heads via telekinesis, but it’s also an extremely smart commentary on consumer and audience expectations. The goofiness just makes it funnier.

Dupieux’s follow-up is equally weird with random character dialogue and actions that make zero sense, visual gags that go unexplained and plot story threads that go nowhere in particular. A man wakes one morning to find his beloved dog is missing. His search for the pooch brings him in contact with neighbors, gardeners, policemen and more, and all of them without fail act incredibly weird.

Why? No reason.

“It’s been proven that all Brunos eventually kill themselves.”

Dolph (Jack Plotnick) is immediately concerned when he discovers his dog Paul (Kuma) has disappeared. He asks his neighbor (Regan Burns) for help, but it devolves into an argument over whether or not the neighbor jogs each morning. He talks to his gardener, Victor (Eric Judor), but the discussion turns to wondering how and why Dolph’s palm tree turned into a fir tree overnight. Then he calls a pizza delivery company to debate the validity of their logo with the girl (Alexis Dziena) on the other end of the line.

That conversation lasts ten minutes.

Wrong proceeds with this same abandon of anything resembling a cohesive narrative all the way through to the end. Points for commitment I suppose, but the missing dog storyline remains the only one that resembles a plot, and it’s treated as a minor event. The arrivals of William Fichtner as a self-help guru named Mister Chang and Steve Little as a top notch detective bring more laughs than clarity.

Dolph’s quest, with the help of Mister Chang, touches on ideas about the treatment of pets, other planes of being and the cognitive abilities of fecal matter, but they seem more like jumping off points for absurdist humor than anything resembling a cohesive or relevant thought. Where Rubber tied its seemingly obscure gags towards a specific theme and commentary this film seems content to let viewers wonder if they’re just missing the point. Spoiler, they’re not.

To be fair, the movie is extremely funny at times from Dolph’s growing unease with the world around him to Victor’s ill-advised fling with the pizza girl which takes an accelerated turn for the worst to pretty much any time Fichtner is speaking. Laughs are never a bad thing, but they feel as if they’re part of a sketch show filled with unrelated segments instead of a narrative feature.

Wrong shouldn’t be an unexpected follow-up from the man who birthed Rubber into the world, and on a scale that measures only weirdness it would be a success. Unfortunately movies need more than non sequiturs, gags and nonsense, and it’s there where Dupieux fails his film and the audience.

The Upside: William Fichtner; stray laughs not involving William Fichtner

The Downside: No central theme; plot boils down too simply; random absurdity is not enough to fill 90 minutes

On the Side: Quentin Dupieux is currently in production on a film called Wrong Cops. No word yet if it’s the continuing adventures of this film’s terribly inefficient police officers.

Grade: C-


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