Philibert (Les Aventures de Philibert, Capitaine Puceau): Movie Review

Tedious medieval comedy is like cinematic rack torture.

Applying a concept similar to "Your Highness," but swapping the raunchiness for mostly PG-rated material, this flat-footed French production remains forever stuck in the Middle Ages.

PARIS — The tights are stretched thin, and so are the laughs, in the French medieval spoof  Philibert (Les Aventures de Philibert, Capitaine Puceau). Applying a concept similar to Your Highness, but swapping the raunchiness for mostly PG-rated material, this 12 million euro ($17 million) Gaumont release should open to mediocre numbers, and then quickly fall to the dungeon of Gallic duds.

A disappointing effort for co-writer Jean-Francois Halin, whose two OSS 117 films were genre parodies done right, Philibert tries to find humor in the datedness of sword-and-cape classics like The Adventures of Robin Hood and Fan-Fan the Tulip. But with a boilerplate screenplay, a series of ineffective, slow-moving gags and a main character whose flamboyant virginity (the French title includes the nickname “Captain Virgin”) and ridiculous costume are the brunt of almost every joke, this misfired comedy is a far cry from masterful send-ups like Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

When we first meet our eponymous hero (Jeremie Renier), he’s showing off his skin-tight leggings (and what can crudely be referred to as his “moose knuckles”) to a bunch of fellow paupers. After his father passes, Philibert learns that he’s actually the son of a count who was assassinated by the evil, eye makeup-wearing Clotindre (Alexandre Astier). He then sets out on horseback to avenge his bloodline, crossing paths with a wisecracking thief (Manu Payet) and an innocuous maiden (Elodie Navarre) on his way to the painfully drawn out final duel.

Though Dardenne Brothers regular Renier (Lorna’s Silence, Potiche) puts all he can into a highly acrobatic performance, the flatfooted direction from TV vet Sylvain Fusee makes it extremely trying to sit through. By both mocking and imitating the style of old movies, the retro-fitted production (shot at Prague’s Barrandov Studios) remains forever stuck in the Middle Ages.

Opens: In France, April 6
Production companies: Mandarin Cinema, Gaumont, M6 Films
Cast: Jeremie Renier, Alexandre Astier, Manu Payet, Elodie Navarre, Eric Savin, Aurelie Montea, Ludovic Berthillot, Vincent Haquin, Gaspard Proust
Director: Sylvain Fusee
Screenwriters: Jean-Francois Halin, Karine Angeli
Producers: Eric Altmayer, Nicolas Altmayer
Director of photography: Regis Blondeau
Production designer: Jean-Jacques Gernolle
Music: Jean-Louis Bianchina
Costume designer: Nathalie Chesnais
Editor: Reynald Bertrand
Sales: Gaumont
No rating, 104 minutes

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