Review: ‘RRRrrrr!!!’

Stone Age comedy gets off to a roaring start but only manages to survive by the skin of its prehistoric teeth. In Gaul, must-see factor is high for this first film written by popular comedy troop Les Robins des Bois. Blend of language-based and conceptual humor will function differently in different territories.

This review was updated on Jan. 28, 2004.

Stone Age comedy “RRRrrrr!!!” gets off to a roaring start but only manages to survive by the skin of its prehistoric teeth. In Gaul, must-see factor is high for this first film written by popular comedy troop Les Robins des Bois (The Robin Hoods) and the first film directed by comic-thesp Alain Chabat since his ultra-boffo hit “Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra” (2002). Venture boasts quite a few pleasingly silly gags, and deadpan tone is nicely sustained, but overall pic is only mildly entertaining. Blend of language-based and conceptual humor will function differently in different territories.

It’s 35,000 B.C., and for the past 800 years, two tribes have lived in a wary co-existence: the one with Clean Hair and the one with Dirty Hair. The Clean Hair chief (Maurice Barthelemy) is a short, balding fellow with an amazon-sized wife (Elise Larnicol). Dirty Hair patriarch Lucie (Jean Rochefort) is determined to get hold of a miraculous substance the Cleans use: shampoo.

When other tactics fail, Lucie’s son (Gerard Depardieu) sends his daughter, Guy (Marina Fois), to seduce one of the Cleans and procure the coveted liquid. Meanwhile, the Cleans’ medicine man (Chabat) bludgeons the chief’s babysitter to death.

It’s the first crime in history, and bulk of the pic consists of trying to figure out who would do such a thing — not because it’s morally heinous, though, as everybody’s bound to die soon enough, either eaten by a mastodon or falling off a cliff. As further crimes arise, persistent dopiness demonstrates the human cerebral cortex is still a work in progress.

An amusing central pun will test dubbers and subtitlers. Pic’s action transpires in “The Stone Age” — in French, “L’Age de Pierre.” As a result, every member of the Clean tribe — men and women alike — is named Pierre. (Film’s press kit bills 26 speaking parts as “Pierre,” with an additional 93 Pierres running around.)

Production design is nifty — 90% of the pic was shot on scenic locations — and the running gag of woolly mammoth-style tusks on every creature, including geese, rabbits and even worms, is nicely carried out.

Thesps do a fine job of limning the dawn of deductive reasoning, with a special nod to Jean-Paul Rouve as the only blond Pierre and Pef Martin Laval as his furry-chested slacker pal.

Playfully majestic score sets the right tone, and widescreen lensing reinforces a vivid sense of place.

RRRrrrr!!!

France

Production

A Mars Distribution release of a Chez Wam presentation of a Chez Wam, StudioCanal, Les Robins des Bois Airlines, TF1 Films Prod. production, with participation of Canal Plus. (International sales: StudioCanal, Paris.) Produced by Alain Chabat, Amandine Billot, Alex Berger. Executive producer, Patrick Bordier. Directed by Alain Chabat. Screenplay, Jean-Paul Rouve, Maurice Barthelemy, Pef Martin Laval, Marina Fois, Chabat.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Laurent Dailland; editor, Juliette Welfling; music, Frederic Talgorn; production designer, Maamar Ech Cheikh; costume designer, Olivier Beriot; sound (Dolby), Pierre Excoffier, Jean Gargonne, Thierry Lebon; hair styling, Ghislaine Tortereau; make-up, Bernard Floch; on-set special effects, "Les Versaillais"; digital effects, Duboi; assistant director, Fabien Vergez; second unit director, Nicholas Pillart; casting, Swan Pham. Reviewed at UGC Normandie, Paris, Jan. 5, 2004. Running time: 99 MIN.

With

Maurice Barthelemy, Jean-Paul Rouve, Pef Martin Laval, Marina Fois, Elise Larnicol, Pascal Vincent, Sebastien Thiery, Edith Le Merdy, Gerard Depardieu, Jean Rochefort, Juliette Poissonnier, Gilles David, Jean-Paul Bonnaire, Alain Chabat.

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