“Smoking Causes Coughing” (“Fumer Fait Tousser”)
Metacritic (6/10), Letterboxd (3/5), Imdb.com (6/10)
One thing that movie fans can say unequivocally about French cinephiles is that they often possess a love of absurdist humor, both in the films they watch and in the pictures their countrymen make. That’s been verified once again in writer-director Quentin Dupieux’s latest, a wacky, wigged out sci-fi/fantasy comedy that’s truly one of a kind. The film follows the campy exploits of the Tobacco Force, a Power Ranger-like troupe of superheroes who take on cheesy-looking monsters and villains with their martial arts skills, as well as their ability to emit toxic chemicals (like nicotine) in ample quantities to quickly vanquish their foes. However, in the wake of their latest successful mission, their commander (a randy lookalike cousin of TV’s lovable alien Alf) orders them to go on retreat to work on their team building skills to compensate for a recent tendency toward too much individualism. And, once there, they work on their bonding by spending much of their time telling stories – truly bizarre ones – that have nothing to do with them or their mission. In turn, these assorted vignettes essentially make up the bulk of the film. Viewers (myself included) might wonder why the picture is constructed in such a way, given that it plays more like a collection of bits loosely strung together by a thin central narrative. But that didn’t stop me from laughing, though – and quite a lot at that. From the standpoint of a movie that has a solid, well-crafted story, “Smoking Causes Coughing” fails miserably. But, as one that tickles the funny bone, the picture hits a string of home runs. Yes, it’s silly and nonsensical, and it’s far from epic filmmaking, However, as something that evokes huge chuckles for their own sake, this one is hard to beat. So, as long as you don’t go in expecting auteur-grade cinema, you’ll be fine if you accept this one just for what it is – a vehicle for making us laugh at a time when we can really use it most.