Gallic cousin to "Dumb and Dumber," Francis Veber's pic is an amiable mismatched buddy comedy whose yucks derive more from pairing a stoic Jean Reno and a dorky Gerard Depardieu than from pic's thin premise. Unlike scripter-helmer's previous winners, current outing doesn't scream "Remake me in English!"

Gallic cousin to “Dumb and Dumber,” Francis Veber’s “Ruby & Quentin” is an amiable mismatched buddy comedy whose yucks derive more from pairing a stoic Jean Reno and a dorky Gerard Depardieu than from pic’s thin premise. Evenly paced and indifferently lensed romp, in which an annoying simpleton escapes prison alongside a vengeful killer, is off to a flying start on home turf (as of Oct. 22) and should fare reasonably well offshore. But venture falls short on originality and hilarity. Unlike scripter-helmer’s previous winners “The Closet” and especially “The Dinner Game,” current outing doesn’t scream “Remake me in English!”

Jovial lug Quentin (Depardieu, looking relatively trim and youthful) has the brain power of a French-speaking cantaloupe. Opening scenes, in which Quentin is stumped by the dearth of recognizable loot when he holds up a currency exchange rather than a bank, do a bang-up job of establishing Quentin is far too literal-minded to succeed as a crook. But what he lacks in intellect he makes up for in brute strength. Yet Quentin likes to talk the way most folks like to breathe (hence pic’s French title, which means “Shut Up!”).

The strong, silent type, Ruby (Reno) manages to hide E20 million ($22.9 million) purloined from his rival Vogel (Jean-Pierre Malo) before being arrested. Detective Vernet (Richard Berry) wants to nail Vogel, but Ruby won’t utter so much as a helpful syllable.

When the prison shrink (Andre Dussollier) mentions that ultra-talkative dimwit Quentin has driven a succession of five cell mates batty in less than a week, Vernet is inspired to toss Quentin in with Ruby. Quentin mistakes Ruby’s silence for good listening skills, and a great, completely one-sided friendship is born.

Ruby’s carefully laid plans to buy his way out of the slammer go spectacularly awry when Quentin, too dense to comprehend that Ruby’s plans to kill Vogel and vamoose with the hidden bounty don’t include him, unwittingly intervenes.

Plot relies heavily on cars, cell phones and sudden bursts of superhuman strength as the title pair repeatedly hop out of the frying pan and into the fire. However contrived, gags are consistently satisfying in a low-key way.

Perfunctory widescreen lensing in Paris and environs gets the job done, but nothing about pic makes a lasting impression — which isn’t exactly a tragedy where lightweight comedy is concerned, but is a bit of a letdown.

Thesps appear to be enjoying themselves, and one imagines there were some funny outtakes en route to so many scenes in which Reno must maintain a stone face while Depardieu, boasting the expression of a well-meaning loon, storms new frontiers in idiocy. For the record, this is Depardieu’s fifth perf in a Veber film (after “La Chevre,” “Les Comperes,” “Les Fugitifs” and “Le Placard”).

Ruby & Quentin

France - Italy

Production

A UFD release of a UGC Images, DD Prods., TF1 Films Production, EFVE (France)/ Filmauro (Italy)/Canal Plus (Spain) co-production with participation of TPS Star. (International sales: UGC Intl., Paris.) Produced by Said Ben Said. Executive producer, Gerard Gaultier. Directed, written by Francis Veber; story idea by Serge Frydman.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Luciano Tovoli; editor, Georges Klotz; music, Marco Prince; production designer, Dominique Andre; art director, Thierry Carini; costume designer, Jacqueline Bouchard; sound (Dolby), Bernard Bats; casting, Francoise Menidrey. Reviewed at UGC Danton, Paris, Oct. 30, 2003. Running time: 84 MIN.

With

Quentin - Gerard Depardieu Ruby - Jean Reno Vogel - Jean-Pierre Malo Vernet - Richard Berry
With Andre Dussollier, Ticky Holgado, Leonor Varela, Aurelien Recoing, Michel Aumont.

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