Review: ‘Matusalem’

Philippe

Philippe

de Beauchene … Marc Labreche

Olivier

St-Pierre … Emile Proulx-Cloutier

Claude Petit … Jod Leveille-Bernard

Benoit Painchaud … Maxime Collin

Helene

Lafleur … Marie-France Monette

Laurent St-Pierre … Steve Gendron

Carole Bonin … Jessica Barker

Capitaine Monbars … Gabriel Gascon

El Diablo … Raymond Cloutier

El Cachiporra … Claude Desparois

El Moribundo … Rodrigue Proteau

Evelyne Monbars … Annette Garant

“Matusalem” is an engaging, fantasy-filled adventure for kids of all ages that will almost certainly draw strong auds on its home turf in Quebec, where it will benefit from one of the biggest marketing campaigns in the history of French-Canadian cinema. Pic opened on more than 40 screens across the province and is the first Quebec film to be officially sponsored by McDonald’s.

This imaginative, often funny story from writer-helmer Roger Cantin could also do business in other Franco territories, but is unlikely to cross over to English-speaking North America.

With time-traveling pirates and lots of special effects, “Matusalem” is squarely aimed at the grade-school set, but Cantin’s tongue-in-cheek sense of humor and a strong performance from adult lead Marc Labreche will keep the parents entertained too.

The tall tale starts in the village of Ste-Lucie de Bagot, with 11-year-old daydreamer Olivier St-Pierre (Emile Proulx-Cloutier) being chased by two of his schoolmates. Olivier ends up bumping into the ghost of an 18th-century pirate, Philippe de Beauchene (Labreche), who enlists the kid’s aid in his quest for the long-lost pardon that he promised to bring to his uncle.

With his eyebrows arching into incredible contortions, theater vet Labreche lights up the screen as the somewhat goofy pirate-ghost with a taste for fine wine and rum, and pic’s first half generates lots of laughs as he attempts to elude the gang of bad-guy pirates, led by El Diablo (Raymond Cloutier).

Pacing slows to a crawl at the midway point, but again picks up steam when a group of village kids and Beauchene jump through a time-machine wall into 18 th-century Cuba in search of Olivier and the nefarious El Diablo. The chase climaxes with a hilarious battle on a giant pirate ship that involves heavy-metal music and some silly special effects.

The mostly young cast tends to be upstaged by Labreche and the other cartoonlike pirates, though Steve Gendron stands out with his performance as Olivier’s nerdy brother Laurent. Tech credits are first-rate throughout, though the special effects may seem a tad ordinary for audiences used to Industrial Light & Magic-style onscreen fireworks.

Matusalem

(CANADIAN)

Production

An Allegro Films Distribution release of a Films Vision 4 production, with the participation of the National Film Board of Canada/Telefilm Canada/SOGIC. (International sales: Films Transit, Montreal.) Produced by Claude Bonin. Directed, written by Roger Cantin.

Crew

Camera (color), Michel Caron; editor, Yves Langlois; music, Milan Kymlicka; art direction, Vianney Gauthier; costume design , Francesca Chamberland; sound, Dominique Chartrand; associate producer, Yves Rivard; line producer, Louise Ranger; assistant director, Ginette Guillard. Reviewed at Theatre Maisonneuve, Place des Arts, Montreal, Dec. 14, 1993. Running time: 105 MIN.
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