A furry, CGI-rendered jungle creature with a 24-foot tail fronts the lightweight Gallic live-action film “Houba! On the Trail of the Marsupilami.” Adapting another famous Francophone comicbook after “Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra,” French actor-director Alain Chabat finds himself in familiar territory as he again tries to balance juvenile adventure, narrative dead ends and wink-wink material aimed at adults. Marketed as kid-friendly, the overstuffed pic has become 2012’s biggest local hit, with its B.O. take closing in on $45 million.
Popular comic Jamel Debbouze plays a jungle guide in the fictitious South American country of Palombia, where he shows around a bumbling TV reporter (Chabat). The journo is hoping to spot a marsupilami (a monotreme, not a marsupial — and even then, the geography seems wonky), which survives on rare orchids with rejuvenating powers that have piqued the interest of some laughably evil men. Less entertaining than simply inoffensive — its depiction of South America is more cliched than downright racist — the Mexico-shot, big-budget production is plushly appointed and acted so broadly, even patrons in the theater next door will get the jokes. Appearance and use of Celine Dion boggle the mind.