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'Eternal Sunshine' Director's Unchecked Whimsy Overwhelms 'Mood Indigo'

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Director Michel Gondry, best known for 2004's Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, always had the ability to inspire awe from the sheer spectacle of his DIYesque special effects. While Gondry doesn't strictly avoid computer graphics, his indulgent use of in-camera effects with a few unobtrusive digital touchups gives his films an organic feel that's lacking in the numbing CGI smorgasbord of most Hollywood releases. Mood Indigo, adapted from Boris Vian's celebrated novel Froth On The Daydream, is the biggest showcase of Gondry's special effects and wild imagination yet, but unfortunately feels like little else.

Colin (Romain Duris) is a handsome Parisian playboy who lives a carefree, comfortable life in a loft with a miniature man-in-mousesuit (Sacha Bourdo, dressed to look like Lester from Beakman's World) and his manservant Nicolas (Omar Sy), who cooks him decadent, stop-motion animated meals that come to life on table. Independently wealthy by unknown means, he's also the inventor of a "pianocktail," a piano mashed up with a drink dispensing machine that creates potent potables customized to whatever jazz tune and bum notes one plays on its ivories. Colin falls in love with Chloé (Audrey Tatou), and they embark on a whirlwind love affair that has the adorable couple flying in cars that look like clouds, getting married by a priest who descends from a UFO, and driving away from the wedding chapel on a rainbow. It's a preadolescent vision of love and marriage taken to its (il)logical extreme, emphasized by Gondry's unhinged sense of whimsy.

Tragedy strikes when on their honeymoon, Chloé is afflicted by a water lily that grows on her lung. The only treatment is for her to remain bedridden and surrounded by flowers, hoping to force the lily to retreat from her body. Colin winds up bankrupting himself in a vain effort to cure his bride. Morose bleakness undermines the colorful quirkiness in the final act of Mood Indigo and makes its conclusion more compelling, but by then the paper-thin characters and obnoxious sensory overload of Gondry's spectacle do nothing to sustain any sense of interest. Hit over the head endlessly for the first two-thirds of the film, watching Mood Indigo leaves the viewer with the same nauseating regret one gets from eating a gigantic bag of cotton candy all by yourself.

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Mood Indigo opens Friday at the Nuart Theatre in West L.A.