Despite admirably slick production values and a sweetly self-deprecating tone, the incongruity of two working-class dopes being recruited as makeshift James Bonds isn't enough to sustain "Double Zero," a Gallic re-do of the 1985 John Landis-helmed comedy, "Spies Like Us." This outing is overblown and underdeveloped.

Despite admirably slick production values and a sweetly self-deprecating tone, the incongruity of two working-class dopes being recruited as makeshift James Bonds isn’t enough to sustain “Double Zero,” a Gallic re-do of the 1985 John Landis-helmed comedy, “Spies Like Us.” The adolescent humor of TV-spawned comic duo Eric & Ramzy socked across their surprise local hit “Don’t Die Too Hard” (“La tour Montparnasse infernale,” 2001), with over 2 million admissions. But this outing — the second super-production this year from producer Thomas Langmann, after the western “Blueberry” — is simultaneously overblown and underdeveloped.

Locally, however, the movie has clicked. After three weeks, the June 16 release had racked up over 1.5 million admissions.

While Hollywood has often remade French films, it’s unusual for the French to recast American fare in their own image. This one calls for the French secret service to draft a couple of mismatched civilian losers as decoys to distract a villain set on global domination. The unwitting pair’s amateur antics are intended to clear the way so that real agents stand a chance of nabbing the bad guy and thwarting his dastardly plan.

Recruiter “The Monocle” (Rossy de Palma) picks small, bald momma’s boy Ben Riviere (Eric Judor) and tall, scrawny, would-be ladies man Will le Sauvage (Ramzy Bedia) to locate a powerful French nuclear missile that’s been hijacked. In opening set piece, said device was intercepted by a statuesque, black Franco-American rogue agent, Natty Dreads (Georgianna Robertson), before the Ruskies could take rightful delivery.

The two not-so-super agents bumble their way from Monaco to Jamaica on the trail of Le Male (a pun that means both “the male” and “evil itself”). Played with deadpan panache and amusing facial hair by popular comic Edouard Baer, Le Male owns a word-class modeling agency, which means he’s always surrounded by major babes in revealing garb.

Kids-in-a-candy-store take on espionage is a shade too reliant on its faux-heroes hailing from the underprivileged Arab-heritage Paris ‘burbs. But pic’s production design, omnipresent babe factor and gizmo quotient all tap into the universal realm of spy-spoof yucks.

Gags are never vulgar; but they’re not riotously funny either, unless you’re a French teenager already enamored with Eric and Ramzy. Notable exceptions are two excellent bouts of computer-assisted animation in which caged rabbits make like Tex Avery’s enthusiastic wolf with elastic eyeballs and panting tongue.

A cell phone housed in Ben’s molar also prompts some fun schtick.

Vet director Gerard Pires keeps the action and set pieces credible for the genre. Widescreen lensing of shapely bodies and gadget arsenals is pro.

Double Zero

France-U.K.

Production

A Warner Bros. France release (in France) of a Thomas Langmann presentation of a La Petite Reine (France)/Alma Gate (U.K.) production, in association with M6 Films, 4 Mecs a Lunettes, 4 Mecs en Baskets, with participation of TPS Star and M6. (International sales: Plaza Production Intl./Roissy Films, Paris.) Produced by Thomas Langmann. Executive producer, Emmanuel Jacquelin. Directed by Gerard Pires. Screenplay, Matt Alexander.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Denis Rouden, Roberto Di Angelis; editor, Veronique Lange; music, Colin Towns; production designer, Gary Williamson; art director, Jean-Michel Hugon; costume designers, Chatoune,(cq) Fab (cq); digital effects, La Maison; associate producer, Timothy Burrill; assistant director, David Campi-Lemaire; casting, Nathalie Cheron. Reviewed at Gaumont Parnasse, Paris, July 7, 2004. Running time: 90 MIN.

With

Eric Judor, Ramzy Bedia, Edouard Baer, Georgianna Robertson, Li Xin, Rossy de Palma, Nino Kirtadze, Atmen Kelif, Lionel Abelanski, Didier Flamand, Bernard Blochfilm

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