"The Fairy": Slapstick Comedy Runs Stale

Since their irresistibly madcap 2005 debut Iceberg, Belgium-based filmmakers, actors, and former clowns Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon, and Bruno Romy have been spinning splashy, near-absurdist whimsy out of limber-limbed pantomime and a Jacques Tati-esque sensibility for droll geometry and framing. The trio's latest, The Fairy, is their most expensive and technically polished confection, which sometimes makes the film feel underwhelming since — like their two earlier, distinctly lo-fi efforts — its primary motive is stringing together DIY gags from the silent era. In the port town of Le Havre, an awkward romance blossoms between hapless hotel clerk Dom (Abel) and the titular redhead (Gordon), who is either a wish-fulfilling sprite or an escaped mental patient. The rest is utter silliness: A skinny-dip in the ocean becomes an underwater dance sequence; Gordon literally balloons from zero to nine months pregnant in a few seconds; and rear-screen projection adds the proper kinesis to an attempted scooter rescue of a baby from the top of a moving car. But while every scene is art directed with zest and innovatively staged, The Fairy rarely inspires outright laughter. At least it respects its influences more than The Artist does.

 
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