"Who Killed Pamela Rose", directed by Eric Lartigau, and starring the 'it' comedic French duo of 2003, Kad Merad and Olivier Baroux (known as "Kad & O") needs so desperately to make fun of all the stereotypes accumulated by dozens of American classics that it gets quickly boring. Watching the film is like driving across Joke City, you know you're supposed to laugh, and some jokes do work, but that's just it, there's nothing else in the film that tries to elevate it above its TV skit format, it's an unambitious project that tried to capitalize on two comedians' popularity instead of their talent, which they have.
The film is set in an American little town, with French actors playing Americans, that's for the gimmick. It works to the extent that we've seen enough cop thrillers and American movies to spot all the little archetypes: the undercover drug deal, the partner who gets killed or severely injured, the corrupt sheriff of a quiet little town (who wants to keep it that way), the redneck with a horseshoe mustache, the Vietnam vet, the sleazy diners and a spectacular, hear- pounding off-screen car chase. Yep, this is clearly a low-budget self-conscious film, starting with a funny premise, but that ended up being trapped by its concept. After all, why would we more laugh at a French film mocking these stereotypes than an American? What is exactly the added value?
This question illustrates the main problem with the film, it took its inspiration from a series of sketches from comedians Kad Merad and Olivier Baroux, but that's the point, they were sketches. These are terrific premises for short films and these two guys, made the best moments of French TV in the early 2000's, and while not a bad film, "Who Shot Pamela Rose" tries so hard to sustain the sketch format during eighty minutes that you feel time goes slowly. There are some bits of genius here and there, an ending credits that pops out of nowhere, a gag involving an after- sales services for failing jokes but these are gags that could have worked for any film and feel like time-fillers. There's something weird when the gags count more than the story.
A movie can get away with this if it's a laugh-riot, if it manages to be on the same vein than "The Naked Gun", but "Who Shot Pamela Rose" is trapped by its obsession to make fun of American films, that it takes for granted we'll be laughing at any reference to American movies, regardless of the comical effect. Maybe this might have worked, but for some reason, the film has an overall feeling of artificiality that leaves a very bitter taste. This is a movie that takes you in a pale vision of American towns, it's all in gray and sad colors, it doesn't really emphasize the Americanization. It looks like France disguised as America. Again, the low budget is betrayed.
The actors do fine but the plot is so thin that they have to inject some pointless subplots, Jean- Paul Rouve, the sheriff ,seems to be infatuated with the cop played by Kad, another subplot involves a diminutive officer who never knew his father, there are just too many time fillers. Olivier is a convincing straight man and Kad, while a great comical actor, doesn't exactly know how to play his cop. He's introduced in an undercover drug deal and what strikes in his character is that he's not professional at all. Maybe that's the joke, but what's the point of making him taste the cocaine while he was already behaving like a lunatic? The film is so busy putting jokes everywhere that it doesn't really care for the story or the characters, it's just an excuse for a series of clichés, one after another.
In the end, I was wondering, why not making this a film set in fictional America, it could be a comedy but without forcing the parody tone, just like "The Artist", or why not making it a parody of French cop movies. By playing in both sides, the comical effect was lost and there was nothing more in "Who Shot Pamela Rose" than a succession of disjointed gags and some over- the-top effects to tell you that it's all a joke. So, if you want to watch a good spoof cop movie, watch "The Naked Gun", to watch a great French cop parody, you have the superb "City of Fear" from comedians "Les Nuls", a film with hilarious gags but still a serious investigation and an engaging story. "Who Shot Pamela Rose" is obviously made for fun with actors having fun playing in it, but they are all in on the jokes and the film is too self-conscious to be taken seriously, even as a parody.
The two actors would later start in more successful films, Kad would be the co-lead in the highest-grossing French movie in 2008, and Baroux went to direct the successful "Tuche" series, and what these films had in common, they were funny and they told stories. At least, they learned the lesson.