Tellingly, a character at the beginning of the feeble Gallic-made but California desert-set horror send-up “Rubber” asks a series of random questions about famous films, like why is E.T. brown, only to answer each time, “no reason.” The story of a murderous tire with telekinetic powers, the film itself reps a kind of dumb, cinematic non sequitur from musician/ad man-turned-helmer Quentin Dupieux (who also wrote, shot, cut and scored “Rubber”). Neither scary, funny, nor anywhere near as clever as it seems to think it is, pic offers auds few reasons to want to see it beyond its one-joke premise.No sooner has local cop Lt. Chad (Stephen Spinella) ranted about pointless movie devices than a diverse gaggle of people gather in the desert to watch a sort of live movie through binoculars — a coy self-referential device Pirandello did better nearly 90 years ago. The film they watch unfolding in the brush shows an old tubeless car tire (whom the credits name Robbie) that seems to come to life and starts rolling by itself through the dust. With the use only of its clearly terribly clever but psychopathic rubber mind, it can blow things up, going to work on glass bottles, rabbits and before long, people’s heads. The tire develops a fixation on a sexy French tourist (Roxanne Mesquida, looking blank) passing through on the highway, and follows her to a seedy motel where it kills the maid, prompting an investigation from Lt. Chad. Meanwhile, someone on the phone instructs his skinny, suited factotum (Jack Plotnick) to poison all the spectators in the desert, which might have mercifully brought the movie to a close. However, one man (Wings Hauser) doesn’t eat the poisoned food, so the show must go on, much to Chad’s chagrin. There aren’t really enough ideas or wit here to support a 10-minute short, and too many other horror pics have managed to send up the genre while still delivering decent acting and a watchable storyline to cut “Rubber” much slack. Pic was shot using the video function of an expensive digital still camera, and result looks no worse than other low-budget digital movies shot on regular DV rigs.
A Magnet Releasing release (U.S.) of a Gregory Bernard presentation of a Realitism Film production, in association with Elle Driver, 1.85 Films, Arte France Cinema, Rubber Films LLC, Sindika Dokolo, with the participation of Canal Plus, Arte France. (International sales: Elle Driver, Paris.) Produced by Bernard, Julien Berlan. Directed, written, edited by Quentin Dupieux.
Camera (color, DV-to-35mm), Dupieux; music, Gaspard Auge, Mr. Oizo; production designer, Pascale Ingrand; art director, Zach Bangma; costume designer, Jamie Bresnan; sound (Dolby Digital), Zsolt Magyar, Valerie Deloof, Stephane de Rocquigny; visual effects, Barzolff 814; line producer, Josef Lieck; assistant director, Ian J. Putnam; casting, Donna Morong. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Critics' Week), May 15, 2010. Running time: 82 MIN.
Stephen Spinella, Roxanne Mesquida, Jack Plotnick, Wings Hauser, Ethan Cohn, Charley Koontz, Tara O'Brien, Robbie.
(English, French dialogue)