Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: Small Apartments vs. Wrong, two absurdist comedies in which Los Angeles bachelors have uncanny levels of communication with their respective dogs.
Small Apartments is directed by famed music video (and Spun) director Jonas Åkerlund and features Little Britain's Matt Lucas as Franklin Franklin, an awkward, diaper-wearing bachelor living in a run-down Los Angeles apartment. Among Frankin's many attributes: he plays the Swiss alphorn, he has conversations with his dog (who sounds remarkably like the Geico gecko), is a wig enthusiast, and, perhaps most pressingly, has murdered his landlord. Along with a (star-studded) offbeat cast of neighbors, family and associates, he goes through a transformative journey that his crime inspires.
Wrong is directed by Quentin Dupieux, the man who brought us 2010's Rubber (the one about the tire that kills people). The movie features Jack Plotnick as Dolph Springer, a bachelor living alone in Los Angeles with his beloved dog, Paul. One morning, Paul runs away, and a heartbroken Dolph embarks on a quest to reunite with his pet. He meets a mind-bending group of people, including a mysterious guru who claims to be able to telecommunicate with pets through their doggy doo-doo, a French-Mexican gardener who is involved with inexplicably replacing Dolph's palm tree with a Christmas tree, and loads of other surrealist enigmas that may or may not get Paul back into his arms.
Visual Pleasure and (Sort Of) Narrative Cinema:
Unquestionably, both movies look incredibly well filmed. Small Apartments features the low-budget advertising aesthetic that Åkerlund is known for, including an unconvincing Swiss Alps set with a busty fraulein and CGI hearts raining down from the sky. It's full of supersaturated greens and oranges and overlit bowling alleys—complete campy pop. Wrong is a bit more understated, but features special effects that force you to do a double take, like a clock that reads "7:60" or a dog riding a city bus full of commuters. The graphic design for the film is also outstanding, with odd, metaphysical diagrams and optical-illusion-esque poster art.
The credits for Small Apartments read like a Who's Who of global cinema, with new and old faces represented. There's Matt Lucas and Rebel Wilson (together again after their hilarious pairing in Bridesmaids), Dolph Lundgren, Billy Crystal, James Caan, Johnny Knoxville, Rosie Perez, Juno Temple... to name just a few. Wrong features Jack Plotnick, who has appeared in Dupieux' other films, but not many other familiar faces.
Advantage: Small Apartments
Strange Self-Help Book as Plot Point
Both Small Apartments and Wrong have a wacky self-help book as a plot point in the storyline. The trailer for Small Apartments leaves the content of the book unexplained, but shows Dolph Lundgren holding a hardcover with his chiseled mug on the cover, entitled Brain Brawn, talking about how his book "vastly reduces your chance of a ‘brain attack.'" In Wrong, Master Chang, the ponytailed mystic who promises to reunite Dolph with Paul, is shown to have penned My Life, My Dog, My Strength, which he claims "should help broach the subject of telecommunication with your dog" and is full of labeled brainwave diagrams with men and Labradors.
If it's going to be weird, and both films truly seem promising in that respect, we'd like it to be as weird as possible. The trailer for Wrong had critics comparing the film to David Lynch, Charlie Kaufman, Groundhog Day, and Luis Buñuel. It's like the Holy Grail of strangeness. We're all in. But, honestly, with the incredible cast and visuals, we're probably going to see both films—maybe a talking-canine double feature?
Trailer Face-Off runs every Thursday. For more, click here.