Synopsis: Joe and Averell are the eldest and youngest of the four Dalton brothers, the worst outlaws in Wild West history, whose criminal failures are such that their own mother is turning against them! But it’s only once Ma Dalton kicks her boys out of the house that they resolve to make her proud by robbing Gulch City Bank, where security is so tight that even the bank tellers are combat-trained. To make matters worse, Lucky Luke is on their trail.
Les Dalton 7.0
A few years ago, I was stunned to find ‘Les Dalton’ in a local CD/DVD shop; I didn’t even know that the movie existed! I was intrigued as heck, especially given that it focused not on Lucky Luke, but on his arch enemies. Still, being absolutely cautious around Lucky Luke-related stuff, I decided that I should rent, not buy it.
This particular store I was at allows people to rent their CDs and DVDs – and then the rental fee can be deducted from the purchase of the same disc upon return, if so desired. It’s a great concept, because it allows people to “taste test” media and make their decision later. Of course, this also brings about the risk that they’ll only rent, rip and never buy.
But I took the film home and, compelled by my curiosity, actually watched it right away. And I was surprisingly amused by it! Perhaps it was due to low expectations, or perhaps it really isn’t all that bad, but I enjoyed it enough that I bought the disc the moment I returned to the store. I felt it was good enough for my collection and that it would have replay value.
It has indeed: I’ve since seen it at least two, if not three, other times (partly because I wanted to show it to a friend or two).
‘Les Dalton’ is corny, and somewhat slapsticky, but it’s essentially a live-action cartoon, so it makes sense to me and I could accept it. When one considers how the Daltons are usually portrayed in Lucky Luke, this is very much in line with expectations. I’m pretty darned sure that kids would adore this, but I wonder what true fans of Lucky Luke would think of it. I’d really love to find out.
Personally, I don’t remember the comics enough to know if this would make Lucky Luke’s creators proud, but it reminds me of the cartoon films from the ’70s, which were usually heavy on Dalton mischief. And, seeing as this film’s entirely focused on the four brothers, you can be sure that there is tons of it to go around.
French comic duo Éric et Ramzy are the centrepiece of the film as duelling brothers Joe and Averell. It makes total sense to have them play them, not only because they can arguably look the part, but also because these two characters provide a lot of opportunities for comedic situations and general riffing off of each other.
Their acting is overdone in most instances, as is much of the film’s cast, but I personally feel that it’s all in keeping with the cartoon vibe of the film. It’s not realistic, it’s not award-winning, but it mostly embodies the vibe of the source material. My only beef with this acting choice is that I wish that the corresponding humour were cretinous in a more clever way. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s just lame.
What’s amusing, but hardly surprising, is that the Dalton brothers don’t resemble each other as they do in the cartoon. But there’s no mistaking them: they look somewhat related, they’re always together and they’re often dressed alike. Meanwhile, Til Schweiger only somewhat looks like Lucky Luke – but at least he has the cool factor down. More so than Jean Dujardin did in 2009’s ‘Lucky Luke’, anyway. Speaking of which, Dujardin shows up in a cameo performance (one suspects this may have given him the Lucky Luke bug. )
Even though I enjoy this film, there are two things that I found a bit wonky in it:
-for one, there’s Lucky Luke’s shadow. The original books claim that he can shoot faster than his own shadow. For this film, they gave Schweiger a CGI shadow that has a life of its own, acting silly in key circumstances. No doubt this was made to compensate for Lucky Luke being such a dry character, but it was weird. It didn’t bother me much, actually, but it might annoy purists.
-the film revolves around a magic sombrero that imbues its wearer with a form of invulnerability – and which Joe Dalton desperately wants. I don’t remember if magic was an element in the original books, but I highly doubt it. It also didn’t bother me, per se, but it does feel somewhat out of place and it would probably elicit curses and much bile in some quarters. Personally, I think that they managed to make it work anyway.
But ‘Les Dalton’ is no ‘Masterpiece Theatre’ and, despite its box office success in France, it is not looked upon with fondness by critics and the public alike. I can totally see why, but I would have imagined that it would have garnered enough fans to balance things out – it is, after all, nothing more than a live-action cartoon. And, given the proper expectations and the right mood, it can really hit the spot.