Movies

‘Mandibles’ Review: A Bug-Brained Affair

For Quentin Dupieux, the French writer and director behind “Rubber” (about a homicidal tire) and “Deerskin” (about a man possessed by a magical leather jacket), the most random and banal objects are cause for fantastically deranged intrigue. And no, these things aren’t bursting with layers of symbolic meaning. It’s their matter-of-fact simplicity that makes them so ludicrous, inviting us to look on in tickled, slack-jawed disbelief.

Enter a giant fly.

In “Mandibles,” two beach bums babysit an enormous, saucer-eyed insect, which might be kind of cute were it not also capable of eating small mammals. Beyond the Kafkaesque ick factor, Dupieux’s latest is also his frothiest, a sunny, tiki-tuned bromantic comedy about dudes with brain sizes comparable to their ward.

Jean-Gab and Manu — played by David Marsais and Grégoire Ludig, the duo best known in France for their long-running sketch comedy program, Palmashow — agree to transport a mysterious item stowed in the trunk of their stolen Mercedes.

It’s the bug, of course, an impressive beast that fills their heads with bright ideas: if they can manage to train it, they’ll be swimming in cash! Jean-Gab’s cooing affection for “Dominique” the fly, and their efforts to keep her secret, unfold a farcical series of events that ultimately lands them a free stay in a seaside villa.

There, Agnès (a refreshingly unhinged Adèle Exarchopoulos, playing against type), a woman who can’t speak without shouting at the top of her lungs, is onto them. Too bad everyone thinks she’s a nut.

“Mandibles” is sweet, simple, and oh-so-very stupid — a stupidity that’s oddly liberating, like making up ridiculous scenarios with a pal over bong hits. Maybe the movies, oversaturated as they are with so much indistinguishable content, could use more of this freewheeling spirit. Dominique may be dumb, but she is undeniably singular.

Mandibles
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 17 minutes. French with subtitles. In theaters and available to rent or buy on FandangoNow, Google Play and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators.

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