by Eric D. Snider
Released: March 29, 2013
Quentin Dupieux's last film, "Rubber," was about a sentient automobile tire that used the power of its mind to kill people. His followup, the aptly titled "Wrong," is more absurd and more laugh-out-loud silly than "Rubber"; it's also less focused and more pointless. But I'm not sure if those are criticisms or merely observations.
"Wrong" is what would happen if Charlie Kaufman, David Lynch, and Samuel Beckett had a baby, then left it to be raised by crackheads who had gone to film school. In basic terms, it's about a man named Dolph Springer (Jack Plotnick) whose beloved dog, Paul, has gone missing. It is revealed that Paul was dognapped on the orders of a mysterious man named Master Chang (William Fichtner), a self-help guru and author of the book "My Life, My Dog, My Strength." Master Chang's mission is to help people appreciate their pets better by temporarily taking them away, but something has gone awry with Dolph and Paul.
That plot summary is the island of comparative sanity in a frothy ocean of random, arbitrary nonsense. Some of it involves picking at a minor thing until it becomes absurd, like when Dolph and a pizza parlor cashier (Alexis Dziena) discuss the company's logo at length. But more of the film is based on weirdness that's even less realistic: Dolph's gardener, Victor (Eric Judor), reports that a palm tree has turned into a fir tree overnight, which it has indeed; it's always raining inside the office where Dolph works, and no one ever says anything about it; firefighters ignore a burning van and check their text messages instead. You get an idea of the film's tone in one of the first shots, a close-up of Dolph's alarm clock as it switches from 7:59 to ... 7:60.
Most of this is pretty funny. When it isn't, you don't have to wait very long for another strand of goofiness to take its place. The one thread that can truly be called a subplot, involving Victor and the pizza girl, falls flat -- it's a different kind of weird from the rest of the movie -- but it's impressive that a movie this unabashedly surreal works as much as it does. In general, there's a reassuring uniformity to Dupieux's style: in this world, everyone's insane, which means no one is.
As a fan of "Rubber," I'm a little disappointed that "Wrong" doesn't work on as many levels as that meta-meta-referential Absurdist horror film did. "Rubber" was a commentary on scary movie formulas and audiences, but "Wrong" isn't a commentary on anything. It's silliness for silliness' sake -- a fine approach, sure, but one that won't make much of an impact.
Not rated, probably R for a lot of harsh profanity, some violent images
1 hr., 34 min.
Copyright © Eric D. Snider.
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