Not quite da bomb, but not a total bomb, either, French hip-hop spoof “Fatal” drops lots of rhymes and a few good lines, yet takes too much time to deliver its comic payload. Helming debut from sketch star Michael Youn adapts his original Gallic gangsta, Fatal Bazooka — a hybrid of Eminem, Ali G and your French dictionary’s worst nightmare — into a feature-length redemption tale in which the outre lyricist battles an Auto-Tune-addicted nemesis. Those familiar with MTV’s “Cribs” or the latest Snoop Dogg video may get the jokes, but it’s unlikely the pic will be extremely phatal outside France.
Based on a character Youn first developed on his vaudevillian daily show, “Morning Live,” and for which he released the 2006 bestselling single “Fous ta cagoule” (Throw on Ya Ski Mask), pic has a blast poking fun at rap music’s more garish manifestations: the gold necklaces, the Hummers, the bikini-clad babes and everything else about the thug-to-hot-tub lifestyle of some of its most successful stars.
Most of this is depicted with plenty of wit and energy in the film’s opening (and easily its funniest) section, which uses a “Behind the Music”-type expose to introduce Fatal Bazooka (Youn), aka Fat Baz, aka F.B. First topping the charts with 1992’s “Je veux du uc” (I Want Some Ass), the young, white sensation goes on to release a string of platinum titles, including his latest cut, “Tuvaferkwa” (Whatchagonnado), whose musicvid features the rapper tossing $100 bills at girls on leashes, as he rides a speed boat through the streets of an unnamed city (actually Montreal).
But the hero soon finds himself outshined by newcomer Chris Prolls (Quebecois actor Stephane Rousseau), an electropop sensation whose tree-hugging antics are on fine display in his hit video (titled “Fuck You”), and who steals Fatal’s limelight, his manager (Jean Benguigui) and his trophy wife (Isabelle Funaro), leaving Fatal to return to his native region of Savoy to rediscover life’s essentials.
Fatal spends a very long time rebuilding himself, and here the film can’t maintain the rhythm of its promising early sequences, only catching a second wind during its closing freestyle battle. Like most spoofs that began as sketches and were stretched into features, “Fatal” eventually becomes an uneven amalgam of a few memorable gags inserted within an overblown narrative — a work best viewed as a highlight reel rather than in its entirety.
Still, there’s no denying Youn’s massive onscreen vitality, and though the trash-talking Fatal is never really likable, he’s often enjoyable and rarely lets up. Ditto Rousseau (“The Barbarian Invasions”), who does an absurd number of ridiculous things but doesn’t lose his sincere edge. As for the women, well, they pretty much receive the kind of treatment reserved for them in the worst rap videos (and not always ironically).
Tech credits for this €14 million ($17 million) Franco-Canadian co-production are on par with the bling aesthetic the pic seems to both mock and emulate.