The wacky, light comedy “King of the Airwaves” is exactly the sort of mass-appeal comic pic with lots of local flavor that tends to generate boffo B.O. action in French Canada, and it will likely be one of the bigger Quebec hits of the year. It opened across the province April 1.
Pic’s original storyline and rapid-fire, MTV-like pacing will probably generate good word of mouth, and the presence of a slew of well-known Quebec actors and media personalities in cameos will also help pull in the crowds. This Canadian-French co-production could have a theatrical life in French-speaking Europe but is unlikely to make it to the silver screen in the U.S. The inventive script might pique the curiosity of producers interested in an English-lingo remake.
Louis Jobin (Martin Drainville) is a young, rather downbeat salesman who spends his days working in an electronics store and his nights in couch-potato mode, zapping from channel to channel. His passion for the tube spurs Louis to sign up for a talent contest being run by local Channel 19, which promises to shoot the winner’s every movement, 24 hours a day for three months.
Louis wins the contest, and suddenly he’s on the other end of the remote control. This unassuming, ordinary guy becomes the most unlikely media celebrity , as the TV cameras turn his life into a real-life soap opera that has the entire city hooked.
The high-concept script — based on an idea by Emile Gaudreault and Sylvie Bouchard, of the popular Quebec comedy troupe Groupe Sanguin — provides lots of yuks in the first half as Louis’ fairly mundane existence comes in for some close scrutiny. Pic works as a lighthearted critique of the media’s power to pervert whatever it touches.
Seasoned actress Dominique Michel is a delight as the domineering mother who’s hellbent on making the most of her son’s 15 minutes of fame, but it’s Drainville’s performance that holds “King” together. Known for a supporting role in the Quebec TV drama “Scoop,” Drainville makes an impressive feature-film debut, and there is something intensely likable about his turn as a lonely nerd trying to deal with his unexpected fame.
The film’s one-gag premise begins to wear thin after an hour, though, especially when helmer Michel Poulette slows the pacing to focus on Louis’ on-air romance with Julie (Agathe de la Fontaine). Fortunately, the laughs are soon back in full swing and the manic tempo goes into overdrive for the last 20 minutes, as Louis rebels against his new-found stardom.
Budgeted at $ C3.1 million ($ 2.3 million), pic features top-notch production values throughout.