Lavishly silly “Iznogoud” blends camels, genies, flying carpets, gorgeous babes and venal plotters with peppy musical numbers and deliciously awful puns and innuendoes that would make Mel Brooks blush — with pleasure. Easily riled Grand Vizier Iznogoud’s goal is to usurp the Caliph’s throne. He’ll stop at nothing, and his efforts are non-stop fun, reflecting pic’s comicbook roots with genuine cinematic flair. Local response for Feb. 9 release, which features recently deceased thesp Jacques Villeret in a sweetly ideal role as the cuddly Caliph, has been warm.
Well-cast special-effects-laden romp written and directed by “9 Months” helmer Patrick Braoude may translate better to international markets than the Asterix franchise did, thanks to its Arabian Nights setting.
In the storybook caliphate of La Magnifique long ago, in the time of the barbarians, kind and childish Haroun El Poussah (Villeret) rules over his adoring subjects with glee and compassion. Only nasty note in the harmonious realm is covetous Iznogoud (Michael Youn) who spends every waking moment — and some sleeping ones, too, as conveyed in an elaborate dream sequence — plotting ways to kill the benevolent leader and take his place.
The Caliph has yet to show more than friendly interest in his 249-wife harem, and head eunuch (Magloire) and the ruler’s closet advisors (Franck Dubosc, Rufus) despair of what will happen if an heir is not produced.
Elsewhere in the desert (location work in Morocco has the desired visual sweep) barbarian sultan Pullmankar the Bloodthirsty (Bernard Farcy) has decided to marry off his only daughter, fearful for her virtue. Any prince could tell you her virtue is no longer an issue, but dad doesn’t know that and ferocious retribution seems to be in order when the princess and her lady-in-waiting are ambushed by bandits.
Youn, who shot to fame baring his posterior on TV and doing “Jackass”-inspired pranks, makes a perfectly hissable villain. Spanish knockout Elsa Pataky is just right as Prehti-Ouhman (read aloud for full effect), a feisty damsel in a modicum of distress. Popular funnymen Kad (painted purple) and Olivier (painted green) score as contentious genies who weigh the legality of every wish.
Musical numbers sport clever lyrics and decent choreography. Production design is pleasing to the eye and tickling to the funny bone.