'Hollywoo'

A Gallic voice actress travels to Tinseltown when the U.S. star she dubs unexpectedly ankles a popular TV series in "Hollywoo," helmers Frederic Berthe and Pascal Serieis' slick and sunny laffer.

A Gallic voice actress travels to Tinseltown when the U.S. star she dubs unexpectedly ankles a popular TV series in “Hollywoo,” helmers Frederic Berthe and Pascal Serieis’ slick and sunny laffer. Tailored to the talents of standup comedians and occasional thesps Florence Foresti and Jamel Debbouze, this French fish-out-of-water comedy contains enough hilarity to offset the occasional misstep and some longueurs in the closing reels. Though phenom “Untouchable” still lives up to its name at the local B.O., this pretty much untranslatable title should appeal to Francophone auds.

With the dubbing of non-kiddie fare a rarity Stateside and in many other territories, the pic has better commercial (and remake) potential in countries where the practice is more common.

Jeanne (Foresti) is the French voice of Jennifer Marshall (Nikki Deloach), the Jennifer Aniston-like lead of worldwide ratings smash “L.A. Couples.” Unlike her Yank counterpart, Jeanne is neither glamorous nor particularly approachable; from the first scene, it’s clear this shrill unknown has more star hubris than the famous actress she dubs for a living.

Jeanne’s world falls apart, drama queen-style, when Jennifer unexpectedly quits as she’s about to start filming the show’s third season, on which Jeanne’s hilariously blase agent (Muriel Robin) got her a significant raise. After consulting with her sister (Sophie Mounicot, in an underwritten part), Jeanne leaves for California on a fool’s errand: Make Jennifer change her mind.

In L.A., where she’s a real nobody (as opposed to a nobody to everyone but French TV viewers with really good ears), Jeanne has trouble getting in touch with Marshall. Things start to look up when she bumps into Farres (Debbouze), a happy-go-lucky Frenchie who tries to help her wiggle her way onto the Paramount backlot and into Hollywood parties and mansions.

The mismatched duo of nonentities is perfectly played by Debbouze and Foresti, and for each idea that falls flat — such as Jeanne’s creepy L.A. hotel — there are at least a couple that’ll make auds grin and occasionally guffaw. Crucially, Foresti suggests some humanity in an essentially unlikable role, and is aided by an unexpected hint of romance between her character and Debbouze’s (better known Stateside for his serious roles in Rachid Bouchareb’s work).

As scripted by Serieis, Foresti and Xavier Maingon, with Debbouze credited as a further contributor (no doubt for his semi-improvised and often very funny Franglais), “Hollywoo” keeps the laffs coming fast. It also gently pokes fun at the impossible cliches of American TV and the perceived Hollywood lifestyle while ensuring the leads and the narrative itself remain sufficiently in awe of same, such as in a seaside rescue in Malibu that features Jennifer and her buff French-Canadian ex-b.f. (Jeff Roop).

However, developments in the final reels — featuring a car chase, flying bullets, the Hollywood sign minus the “d” (hence the title) and jail time — stretch auds’ suspension of disbelief and the running time, though the cast’s credits-montage singalong to Musical Youth’s “Pass the Dutchie” is a doozy.

Bright lensing had some minor color and focus issues at the screening caught, though mostly the tech package is as bright and reliable as the California sun.

Hollywoo

France

Production

A Studiocanal release of a LGM Cinema, Studiocanal, TF1 Films Prod., Lorette Prods., Comme Une Grande Prod., in association with Nexus Factory, Ufilm, with the participation of Canal Plus. (International sales: Studiocanal, Paris.) Produced by Cyril Cobeau-Justin, Jean-Baptiste Dupont. Co-producers, Sylvain Goldberg, Serge de Poucques, Adrian Politowski, Gilles Waterkeyn. Directed by Frederic Berthe, Pascal Serieis. Screenplay, Xavier Maingon, Florence Foresti, Pascal Serieis, based on an idea by Maingon.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Ludovic Colbeau-Justin; editor, Elodie Codaccioni; music, Philippe Rombi; production designer, Franck Benezech; costume designer, Aurore Pierre; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS), Francois Maurel, Alain Feat, Thomas Gauder; line producers, David Giordano, Patrick Batteux; assistant director, Francois Ryckelynck. Reviewed at Gaumont Opera (Cote Capucines), Paris, Dec. 8, 2011. Running time: 106 MIN.

With

Florence Foresti, Jamel Debbouze, Nikki Deloach, Muriel Robin, Sophie Mounicot, Jeff Roop, Kirk B.R. Woller, John G. Connolly, Brian Fitzpatrick. (French, English dialogue)

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