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‘Le Magasin des Suicides’

by Giovanni Fazio

In the miserable satire-world of French animated comedy “Suicide Shop,” people are fined by the cops and billed for damages for failed suicide attempts. Of course in present-day Japan, this is the sad reality, where bereaved relatives get a bill for the disruption caused by a loved one who jumps in front of a train, which may render this film less amusing to local audiences.

Based on a novel by Jean Teule, the movie aims for the gothic black-humor of something like “Harold and Maude,” but comes up short. Creepy Mishima (a Raul Julia look-alike) and his frumpy wife Lucrece run a small shop dedicated to helping people off themselves successfully: rope for nooses, poisons, katanas for harakiri — you name it, they provide. The trouble arrives when their newborn child Alan turns out to be a smiling, laughing cutie, breaking the mood of dour misery that allows their business to prosper.

Patrice Leconte (“The Girl on the Bridge,” “Monsieur Hire”) is a notoriously hit-or-miss director, and his first attempt at animation is a bit of both. While the hand-drawn, cartoony look of the film is welcome, the jokes are thin on the ground, and the life-affirming ending all too predictable. It’s also a musical, which probably knocked a star off for me, but “Sweeney Todd” fans may like it more.