Mandibles (Mandibules) is a different type of creature feature. Usually these movies are meant to show the inherent evil in humanity or to be a story about a seemingly vicious monster fighting for good. Making its North American premiere at the recently concluded Nightstream Film Festival, Mandibles is neither. The “vicious beast” is more of a means to an end.
The premise is a familiar one. Two dim witted friends named Manu and Jean-Gab are aimlessly wandering through life. One day on their way to a mysterious job, they discover a giant fly in the trunk of their car. In what can only be described as a stroke of genius, the two decide to train the insect to make loads of money.
There is more to Mandibles than just an enormous fly. (Dominique – the name given to the new pet – is disgustingly big.) The story is more about Manu and Jean-Gab. The plot focuses on the depth of the friendship between the two. They get into some small escapades, burn down a trailer, and accidentally talk their way into hanging out with rich vacationers along the way.
Dominique is relegated to an omnipresent background role. As the end of the movie clearly illustrates, the bond between the friends with the fly is surface level. They want Dominique to rob banks and gather food for them. Mandibles is not one of those cutesy movies in which the human characters form a kinship with their pet.
This decision makes the film a stronger one. The audience is constantly kept on their toes by the zany antics of Manu and Jean-Gab. Mandibles walks (flies?) its own path with each moment being a pleasant surprise. From its brisk pace at just over one hour to its willingness to take jokes to shocking limits (an incident with a dog and a traumatic head injury are two moments that are sure to offend), the story never tips its hand.
Mandibles is not the first movie to rely on bromantic tropes to tell its story. It may be the most effective. Ostensibly about a giant fly, the film instead turns into a look at a special friendship. Those looking for deep ruminations about relationships will be disappointed. This film is all about wacky fun and being happy. And it is better for it.
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