Take “Stranger Than Fiction’s” Will Ferrell and replace him with an even more pathetically obsessive accountant, then take Emma Thompson’s omniscient author and replace her with a washed-up ’80s pop star, and you’ll get a vague idea of the concept behind French comedy “Me Two.” Freshman feature from TV helming duo Nicolas & Bruno is an enjoyably offbeat vaudeville work that’s expertly played by vets Daniel Auteuil and Alain Chabat, who playfully pull off a retro-schizo scenario best described as “Being Michael Bolton.” Mid-June local release hasn’t topped the charts but should see plenty of tube and homevid play.
When one-hit wonder Gilles Gabriel (Chabat) plows his Renault into humdrum accounts manager Jean-Christian Ranu (Auteuil), the accident leaves the latter without a scratch, but with a mind now possessed by the voice of his assailant. Thinking himself dead and seeing Ranu as the only way to launch a long-awaited pop comeback, Gabriel slowly transforms the lonely bachelor into a voodoo doll for his kitschy and tasteless ’80s antics.
Pic’s second half has Ranu — with Gabriel’s unhelpful assistance — falling for boss Muriel Parrache (Marina Fois), whom he hopes to impress during a speech at their insurance company’s annual shareholders meeting. This provides one of the film’s best setpieces, with Ranu/Gabriel offering up an accounting rock concert that becomes a laugh-out-loud fusion of the two horribly outdated personalities.
As longtime vets of TV advertising and sketch comedy — including stints on the hit series “Nulle part ailleurs” — Nicolas & Bruno clearly hail from the Michel Gondry/Spike Jonze generation of visually eclectic, nostalgically old-school filmmaking. Combining a musicvid sensibility for inspired staging and set design with cleverly re-edited archival footage, they manage to milk a one-line concept for endless running gags that rarely lose footing throughout the scrappy narrative.
Auteuil pulls off wacko loser Ranu with magnificent comic timing and understatement, like the long-lost nephew of Robert De Niro’s Rupert Pupkin in “The King of Comedy.” Constant back-and-forth banter with his other inner soul feels more improvised than scripted, and much of the enjoyment comes from his reactions to Gabriel’s remarks, and vice versa.
Comedian Chabat (“The Science of Sleep,” “The Taste of Others”) incarnates the cheesiest of ’80s singers with irony and enthusiasm, going so far as to create a MySpace page that includes a hilarious lo-fi video for Gabriel’s sappy love song “Flou de toi” (“Fuzzy Over You”) that opens the film.
Among numerous tech highlights are Stephane Rozenbaum’s playfully colorless office and apartment sets and Charlotte David’s ridiculously retro costumes, which Auteuil sports with utter sincerity.