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A film about the worst commercial airline flight in history is clearly going to be either a comedy or a horror film. While writer-director Maurice Barthélémy’sLow Cost aims at the comedic approach, for his audience the film more closely resembles a horror film with its wildly accented acting, cheap shocks, lazy writing and heavy reliance on one-note stereotypes. The French film, which had its world premiere in Los Angeles at the annual City of Lights/City of Angels film series, will get released in France June 8 but probably won’t be in a cinemas for long. Its best bet is European cable TV. Its worst bet is an in-flight movie on any airline.
The film starts out with, shall we say, reasonable gags that are anything but far-fetched: Passengers board a low cost airline — curiously, only identified in the final credit crawl as Lobut Airlines — in Djerba, Tunisia, only to suffer from a dysfunctional sound system, two-euro charges for water and many delays in taking off. When those delays without air conditioning or food reach eight hours, the passengers mutiny, take control of the plane and install ex-Air France pilot Jean-Claude (Gérard Darmon) in the cockpit.
(The comedy fails to acknowledge any present-day security measures in effect for all airlines, thus a passenger can wander into the cockpit to chat with the pilots and a hijacked plane can take off without any interference from local authorities.)
Jean-Paul Rouve plays Dagobert, almost by default the leader of the revolt, while Judith Godrèche is a flight attendant, implausibly named Nuance, who cheerfully abandons her duties to assume a role as his bickering second-in-command. The pilot is so clueless that he lands not in Corsica, when weather diverts the aircraft, but on a forlorn somewhere-in-Africa airstrip controlled by murderous warlords.
As a stalemate between the warlords and panicky passengers sets in, the movie sets off in an increasingly pathetic search for laughs — in passengers’ names, their reading material, idiotic conflicts and nervous ticks. There is even a gag, once airborne again, that no filmmaker has dared in 60 years when air turbulence causes white powder to spill over a black passenger’s face. This almost makes you forgive the constant jokes about a little person who is constantly called a “midget.”
Whether out of desperation or a misguided attempt to push the envelope, the movie devolves into unusual gruesomeness for a comedy with gunshot and knife wounds, dead bodies and severed body parts. Oh, and one squashed rat.
Again, Barthélémy’ screenplay (based on a story by Hector Cabello Reyes) keeps moving in the direction of horror rather than comedy. This may inspire a second mutiny where audience members quit the theater and demand refunds.
Technical credits are adequate but like the fictional airline low cost.
Production companies: Les Films du Kiosque in association with France 2 Cinémas and Wild Bunch
Cast: Jean-Paul Rouve, Judith Godrèche, Gérard Darmon, Youssef Hajdi, Maurice Barthélémy
Director/screenwriter: Maurice Barthélémy
Based on a story by: Hector Cabello Reyes
Producers: François Kraus, Denis Pineau-Valenciennes
Director of photography: Steeven Petitteville
Production designer: Séphane Rosenbaum
Music: Jean-Noël Yven
Costume designer: Anne-Sophie Gledhill
Editor: Emmanuel Turlet
Sales: Film Distribution
No rating, 88 minutes
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