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Film Review: ‘Smoking Causes Coughing’ is a Bizarrely Comedic Superhero Misadventure

Magnolia Pictures
Magnolia Pictures

Sometimes, a project has the benefit of good timing when it comes to its release. Right as the film discourse on certain parts of the internet is beginning to wonder is the superhero movie is on its last legs (though it’s not, we can just be clear about that), Smoking Causes Coughing is entering the conversation. A satirical takedown of superheroes and some oof the ridiculousness that comes along with it, we have a very particular flick that some will absolutely go gaga over.

Smoking Causes Coughing is as if a French stoner mixed Mighty Morphin Power Rangers with cigarettes and a healthy dose of satire. Interestingly, it works more often than it doesn’t. That being said, it’s barely feature length and feels completely like a lark. It’s 100% disposable, but ridiculous in mostly good ways.

Magnolia Pictures

In a world protected by the Tobacco Force, various monsters are powerless against their combined powers. When Nicotine (Anaïs Demoustier), Benzène (Gilles Lellouche), Methanol (Vincent Lacoste), Ammoniaque (Oulaya Amamra), and Mercure (Jean-Pascal Zadi) bring their skills together, the day is always saved. However, the team is fraying a bit, with personal issues and a lack of cohesion threatening them. So, measures from up above are taken to make sure that they’re up to snuff when a big bad arrives.

Sent by their chief Didier (voiced of Alain Chabat) to a week-long retreat to rebuild team chemistry, the Tobacco Force begins hanging out. They tell stories (including one about a woman played by Adèle Exarchopoulos that’s wild), deal with their own issues, and attempt to bond. With the eventual threat of world annihilation looming, will the team be able to come together?

Magnolia Pictures

The cast lean in to the silliness of the premise, but without ever hamming it up. They’re equally amusing, the Tobacco Force, though there aren’t any standouts. The best performance is actually by Adèle Exarchopoulos, who is part of the weirdest segment, but elevates her section just by force of talent. The rest of the cast includes Marie Bunel, Grégoire Ludig, Jérôme Niel, Benoît Poelvoorde, Doria Tillier, and more.

Filmmaker Quentin Dupieux is certainly an acquired taste. Here, he’s looser and sillier than ever, and while I run hot and cold on him, what works here is genuinely strange and weirdly amusing. Dupieux barely has a plot here and meanders more than a film that doesn’t even run 80 minutes should, but there’s some hilarious weirdness here. Whether it’s the gore or the sheer fact that the team’s boss is essentially an ALF-like muppet, very little makes sense. However, the outward strangeness gives the flick plenty of personality.

Smoking Causes Coughing is a bizarrely comedic superhero misadventure with enough laughs and overall strangeness to be worth a watch. You probably should know what you’re getting into with Dupieux, but as long as you do, there’s something here. I’m not entirely sure what it is, but I laughed enough that I can’t help but give it a mild thumbs up.

SCORE: ★★★


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Written by Joey Magidson

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