On the back of Jean Dujardin’s award winning turn in The Artist comes the release of Lucky Luke , a fanciful Wild West comedy based on a French graphic novel series. Released in 2009, but never to English speaking territories, it’s not hard to see why this offbeat take on American cowboys would have never reached those audiences without Dujardin’s new found international acclaim.
Set in Utah in 1846, Lucky Luke is tasked by a fictional US president with establishing order in his hometown. As the cowboy who can’t kill, Luke engages in countless gun fights that never end with anyone’s death. That is until a duel with the villainous Pat Poker (Daniel Prévost) sees Luke fire a fatal shot that leads to the forlorn lawman hang up his badge and pistol. When an assassination plot threatens the president, Luke teams with Calamity Jane (Sylvie Testud), a Shakespeare-quoting Jesse James (Melvil Poupaud) and the simple-minded Billy the Kid (Michaël Youn) to save the day.
Full of mundane humour and tiresome shootouts, Lucky Luke languishes until finally reaching a third act that seems to borrow more than a little from classic Batman stories. If the rest of the film could match the level of flawed-fun of the final 30 minutes, it would be far better off for it. Unfortunately, any film featuring both a talking horse and the hero punching women for laughs is setting a confusing, uneven and unenjoyable tone. The addition of an anachronistic soundtrack, with cuts of classic American rock and even Bob Marley, further muddles the cause.
Perhaps the dialogue works well in its native tongue, but the direct English translations reveal it to be trite and dire. The charm Dujardin displays in The Artist doesn’t elevate him here, but perhaps his ridiculous coiffure can shoulder the blame.
Anyone looking to explore Dujardin’s back catalogue should probably start elsewhere, as Lucky Luke is best left in the dust.