January 31, 2014 at 1:00 am

Tom Long

Review: 'Pauline detective's' real mystery - why make this movie?

Sandrine Kiberlain plays a tabloid magazine editor investigating a murder in 'Pauline detective.' (Cinema Detroit)

There can be a thin line between dumb and delightful, and “Pauline detective” crosses that line too often for its or anyone else’s good.

Sort of a “Harriet the Spy” meets “Love Boat” without the spunk of the former or the happy cheese of the latter, this featherweight French film is probably supposed to be something of a screwball comedy, but writer-director Marc Fitoussi can’t draw out any laughs. More than a few grimaces, sure, but no laughs.

Pauline (Sandrine Kiberlain; think Julie Delpy with freckles) is a tabloid magazine editor who gets dumped by her boyfriend as the film begins.

After moping around for a few days, her sister, a minor television star named Jeanne (Audrey Lamy; think Julie Delpy without freckles), shows up with her husband (Antoine Chappey) and they whisk Pauline away to an Italian resort. French tabloid editors apparently enjoy a great deal of leeway with sudden vacation urges.

Upon arrival, Pauline, who’s showing no signs of broken-heartedness, has to share a room the first night with a nosy old lady. When that old lady turns up dead a couple of days later, Pauline decides its murder and enlists the resort’s recreation director, Simone (Claudio Santamaria), to help her investigate, even though no one has asked her to investigate.

That investigation is complicated by the fact that there is also — what else? — a serial killer on the loose.

The situations Pauline gets herself into — she’s attacked by Simone’s ex-wife, she mistakes a man for the serial killer and sends him to the hospital, she sneaks into a closet — are undoubtedly supposed to be endearing, but they’re all so tepid it’s like watching wax melt, but less exciting.

After dragging a half hour sitcom’s story out to 100 minutes, Fitoussi hurriedly and clumsily resolves things (sort of) at the film’s end. Anyone who makes it that far will be grateful. Not for the resolution; for the end.

'Pauline detective'


Not rated

Running time: 101 minutes