THE SUICIDE SHOP (Patrice Leconte). 79 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (November 30). See listing. Rating: NNN
When suicide seems like the only choice, the Tuvache family business makes sure you go out with options: poisons packaged like perfumes, a handcrafted sword for hara-kiri or even a plastic bag and duct tape for the hobos who can't afford better.
That's the morbidly amusing premise of The Suicide Shop, an animated French comedy that squeezes as much life as it can out of its central gag.
At a time when people and pigeons keep dropping from the sky - blame it on the recession - business is booming for the Tuvaches. But things get awkward when their youngest son, Alan, is born with a permanent smile on his face, which makes customers reconsider taking the plunge.
This isn't exactly kids' stuff, despite writer/director Patrice Leconte's attempts to make the dour proceedings as childishly upbeat as possible. There's a musical number at the end of every dark alley, but most feel tedious and redundant, like a ploy to pad out the running time. You can't help but wonder where Tim Burton would have taken material that seems ideally suited for his gothic tastes.
Leconte compensates with old-school animation that's to die for, boasting visual wit and dry humour that gives this funereal movie lots of life.