A night clerk in a drab Le Havre hotel doesn’t bat an eyelid when a strange, shoeless women checks in and announces that she’s a fairy and says he’s got three wishes..
When he chokes on his sandwich, she comes to the rescue, the point at which something sparks between them. Once again, she offers him three wishes; this time, he comes up with two, both of them realised by the morning.
The Belgian comedy team of Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon, and Bruno Romy inhabit a strange, strange world – and The Fairy serves it up with a wave of the wackiest wand for an hour and a half which slowly but surely stretches patience beyond normal limits.
It starts brightly enough with a feyness which is almost enchanting, but maybe the turning point comes when Dom (Abel) and fairy Fiona (Gordon) indulge in an extended underwater dance after a spot of skinny-dipping during which Dom gets his clothes nicked.
The second, rooftop dance a little while later is even more irritating.
Is she really a fairy? Who knows? Who cares? But the authorities seem pretty convinced that she’s escaped from a mental hospital, and they drag her back there sending lovelorn Dom on a madcap hunt around the town.
There’s a lovely little moment which finds Fiona and her fellow inmates playing cards under a locked door, using their endless tablets as chips; and Fiona’s escape inside Dom’s coat, her hair tumbling down as a beard, certainly raises a smile.
But otherwise the endless physical comedy, the repeated little tributes to the silent movie gags and routines which hold it all together, turn whimsy into weariness. Maybe if they’d shot it in the black and white they clearly worship, things might have taken off.
But in a world in which anything can happen, it’s difficult to be bothered what actually happens. In a matter of seconds, Fiona is nine months pregnant; she delivers the baby herself; and the film ends with a fantastical baby rescue preceded by yet another Chaplinesque chase.
The best moments, however, are at the start, most notably the non-French-speaking guest who unsubtly smuggles a dog into his room in the shape of a give-away walking suitcase.
But by the end, the jokes are wearing horribly thin in a film which has long outstayed its welcome. A half-hour short would probably have been enough.
Dom gets round to making only two of his wishes. It’s a fair bet that viewers will happily supply the third.
Rental courtesy of Blockbuster. For details of other new releases, see www.blockbuster.co.uk.