Review: ‘Cyprien’

Somewhere between "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," "Zoolander" and "Revenge of the Nerds" lies this freakish tale of France's greatest dork, who'd rather play with "Star Wars" action figures than talk to a girl -- until a miraculous potion transforms him into a heartthrob fashionista.

Somewhere between “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Zoolander” and “Revenge of the Nerds” lies this freakish tale of France’s greatest dork, who’d rather play with “Star Wars” action figures than talk to a girl — until a miraculous potion transforms him into a heartthrob fashionista. With a charismatic perf by standup star Elie Semoun and a bottomless bag of ’80s refs, the pic should become a cult item for Francophone dweebs, especially in ancillary. Overseas prospects are iffier.

By day, 35-year-old Cyprien (Semoun) is the laughingstock at Parisian fashion mag Dress Code, where he fixes computers and salivates over female colleague Helena (Lea Drucker). By night, he’s the leader of a band of overgrown adolescents and online gamers (Vincent Desagnat, Mouloud Achour, Jean-Michel Lahmi), who spend their time one-upping each other with allusions to “WarGames,” “The Goonies” and all six installments of “Star Wars.”

When Cyprien receives a package (delivered by a Darth Vader lookalike) containing a mysterious can of deodorant, the spray turns him into alter ego/ladies’ man Jack Price (a portmanteau of “Pirates of the Caribbean’s” Jack Sparrow and France’s PriceMinister website). Soon enough, Jack becomes the new star of his company, thwarting takeover plans by bratty heir Stanislas (Laurent Stocker), who hopes to run things alongside his mother/editor-in-chief (Catherine Deneuve).

With a cast of certified losers, scores of cheeseball dialogue and set design by Christian Marti that consists of everyone’s favorite ’80s movie posters and figurines, the pic is clearly geared toward the under-40 fanboys it seems to mock and celebrate at the same time. Topper is a two-minute figure-skating/disco homage to “Ice Ice Baby” that accomplishes the unique feat of getting Deneuve to dance to the likes of Vanilla Ice.

Otherwise, the predictable “Ugly Duckling” plot and an overstretched third act wear out the scenario’s freshness, even though Semoun and Drucker (“Sunny Spells”) make things fairly watchable.

Sleek tech package reveals first-time helmer David Charhon’s advertising roots: He exaggerates slow-mo and stop-action f/x while overindulging in multiple product placement.




A Mars Distribution release of a Serenity Films, Studio 37, TF1 Films Prod. production, with participation of Canal Plus, CineCinema, Universal Pictures Video. (International sales: Studio 37-Kinology, Paris.) Produced by Maxine Japy, Arthur Essebag. Executive producer, Jean-Lou Monthieux. Directed by David Charhon. Screenplay, Charhon, Romain Levy, Elie Semoun, Benjamin Guedj, based on an original idea by Arthur Essebag.


Camera (color, widescreen), Antoine Roch; editor, Sophie Reine; music, Jean-Benoit Dunckel; production designer, Christian Marti; costume designer, Fabienne Katany; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS Digital), Marc-Antoine Beldent, Anne Gibourg, Damien Guillaume, Julien Loron, Cedric Lionnet; assistant director, Christophe Vassort; casting, Pierre-Jacques Benichou. Reviewed at UGC Cine Cite Les Halles 6, Paris, Feb. 26, 2009. Running time: 97 MIN.


Elie Semoun, Lea Drucker, Laurent Stocker, Vincent Desagnat, Elisa Tovati, Catherine Deneuve, Mouloud Achour, Jean-Michel Lahmi, Cecile Breccia.
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