Lucky Luke (2009)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Lucky Luke</strong> (2009)

(In French, On TV, November 2018) As a Francophone North-American viewer, French cinema can be frustrating in its lack of tonal control. For lack of discipline or cultural reasons, French movies often can’t bother to maintain a consistent tone from beginning to end, leading to a curiously scattered approach where a film’s approach seems to vary by accident rather than by design. This is particularly striking with comedies, one of the best demonstrations being 2009’s live-action adaptation of Lucky Luke. As a childhood fan of the original comic book series, I was favourably predisposed toward a film adaptation. But I wasn’t necessarily expecting this one, in which Lucky Luke flirts with girls, suffers a mental breakdown when he thinks he’s killed a man, and ends up in a psychedelic villain’s lair in time for the climax. It’s been too long since I’ve read a Lucky Luke album to demand exact fidelity to the source material, but even as a mere movie this Lucky Luke goes everywhere and anywhere. While reviews in France were (and continue to be) harsh, it’s not a complete failure due to the impressive visual polish of the film and the sight of Jean Dujardin as Luke. The cinematography, set design, special effects and costumes are as good as one would expect for this kind of film, while Dujardin has the square jaw required of the role. I’m also generally upbeat about Sylvie Testud as Calamity Jane. But it’s in the script that film falls flat, not quite managing to balance the comedy with the action with its numerous digressions and substandard writing. Even as a comic western, it doesn’t know what it’s supposed to be, and this lack of focus quickly becomes grating. In doing so, Lucky Luke become one of a growing line of disappointing comics-to-movie French adaptations. Too bad. I’m sure they’ll figure it out eventually.

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