Monday, March 27, 2023

Quentin Dupieux’s Smoking Causes Coughing

Grown adults who wear spandex richly deserve to be mocked. Unfortunately, satire has been choked unconscious by woke social justice warriors, just as the superhero genre peaked. Hollywood no longer has defiantly rude satirists like Mel Brooks. The closest we can get is the post-modern bizarro wackiness of Quentin Dupieux, from France. Whenever a rubber-suited monster attacks, the Tobacco Force is there to stop them in Dupieux’s Smoking Causes Coughing, which releases this Friday in theaters and on-demand.

Usually, the fab five can rely on their marital arts skills to defeat the human-sized kaiju they fight. However, when all else fails, they can call on the carcinogenic compounds for which they are named, to give their foes an immediately fatal dose of cancer. Benzene is the oldest, so he considers himself the group’s leader. Mercury is a family man, whereas Menthanol is a luckless loser with the ladies. Ammonia is the baby of the team, whereas Nicotine carries a torch for their boss, Chief Didier, even though he is a human-sized rat, with greenish slime oozing from his mouth.

After their last rocky encounter. Chief Didier orders them off on a team-building retreat. As they pass the time, they tell a series of campfire stories that are meant to be scary, but are really just indescribably bizarre and random, very much like Dupieux’s films. Unfortunately, while the Tobacco Force cool their heels, their intergalactic nemesis, Lezardin, is planning Earth’s final destruction.

In this case, a comparison to Brooks is quite apt, because sometimes Dupieux’s gags are riotously funny and sometimes they fall excruciatingly flat, but he keeps blasting them at the audience with a scattergun, regardless.

Probably, the weakest sequences are the pseudo-urban legends, whereas the biggest (and foulest) laughs come from Chief Didier. Along the way, there is plenty of the tripped-out weirdness Dupieux’s fans will expect. The entire cast deserves credit for their willingness to look ridiculous, especially Gilles Lellouche, who is an accomplished thesp (in films like
Kompromat), who probably had the most to fear from the spandex wardrobe. Cheers to his sportiness. Similarly worthy of acknowledgement, Anais Demoustier manages to get peevishly jealous over a foaming-at-the-mouth rat, which is definitely something.

In a way, it is weird to see Dupieux spoofing the Power Rangers and Kamen Rider franchises (with maybe a dash of Gerry Anderson thrown in for good measure). Typically, he creates his own radically off-kilter worlds. However, his satire is often funny, especially if you are familiar with the high-kicking superheroes he is sending-up. Highly recommended for fans of Dupieux and Tokusatsu series,
Smoking Causes Coughing releases Friday (3/31) in theaters and on VOD.