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The Antidote

A French captain of industry is obliged to join forces with a shleppy minor shareholder in the broad comedy, "The Antidote." Pairing Gallic faves Christian Clavier and the late Jacques Villeret, pic has the makings of an acceptable night out for local auds. But result feels too formulaic and insufficiently riotous to click far and wide.

With:
With: Christian Clavier, Jacques Villeret, Agnes Soral, Annie Gregorio, Francois Morel, Francois Levantal, Alexandra Lamy, Daniel Russo, Thierry Lhermitte.

A French captain of industry is obliged to join forces with a shleppy minor shareholder in the broad comedy, “The Antidote.” Pairing Gallic faves Christian Clavier and the late Jacques Villeret, pic has the makings of an acceptable night out for local auds. But although the well-oiled comic mechanisms are all in place, and cast is game, result feels too formulaic and insufficiently riotous to click far and wide. Pic starts a substantial print run March 30.

High-profile businessman Jacques-Alain Marty, aka JAM the Killer (Clavier), heads the tentacular Vladis empire. But anxiety attacks, in which his speech devolves into rebus-like pronouncements, have his closest aides (Francois Levantal, Alexandra Lamy) and aristocratic wife (Agnes Soral) playing the equivalent of charades to decipher his simplest request or order.

The best shrink in Paris (Thierry Lhermitte) suspects a repressed childhood trauma is the root cause. He urges JAM to figure out what he might have lacked as a boy.

Mild-mannered Andre Morin (Villeret), an accountant for a failing toy company, dabbles in stocks and always makes a nuisance of himself at annual shareholder meetings. When JAM discovers he no longer mangles his words if Morin is in sight, the rich decision-maker is compelled to bring the modest honest man into his inner circle — at least until he outsmarts his chief international rival, a ruthless Australian.

Gentle and fable-like instead of biting or satirical, pic is too kind in its depiction of merciless capitalist machinations to be truly funny, and simply ends up mildly amusing. Much humor derives from the impeccable manners of the ruling class when confronted with the polite but less-than-refined realm of the common working man.

Thesps all fit the bill, and the final explanation for JAM’s functional problem is just plausible enough to tie up loose ends.

The Antidote

France

Production: A Warner Bros. Pictures France release of a Christian Fechner presentation of a Films Christian Fechner, France 2 Cinema, Fechner Prods. production, with participation of Canal Plus. (International sales: Roissy Film, Paris.) Produced by Christian Fechner. Executive producer, Herve Truffaut. Directed by Vincent De Brus. Screenplay, Arnaud Lemort, based on a screenplay by Eric Besnard and Jacques Besnard, inspired by an idea by Eric Besnard.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Laurent Machuel; editor, Sylvie Gadmer; music, Germinal Tenas; production designer, Franck Benezech; costume designer, Veronique Perier; sound (Dolby), Jacques Pibarot, Emmanuel Augeard, Dominique Gaborieau; associate producer, Alexandra Fechner. Reviewed at Elysees Biarritz, Paris, Jan. 22, 2005. Running time: 108 MIN.

With: With: Christian Clavier, Jacques Villeret, Agnes Soral, Annie Gregorio, Francois Morel, Francois Levantal, Alexandra Lamy, Daniel Russo, Thierry Lhermitte.

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