Pepe Le Pew is a jewel thief trapped in his own safety in Algiers while Hedy Lamarr makes him dream of France.
Can’t see a bunch of trouble made in an unstable country for a high-class jewel thief anymore. Gonna have to go off the rails a bit…
The Random Remake
Pre-credit sequence: An undercover Algerian agent is entering the casbah of Algiers, a tight-knit, close-quartered, run-down section of the city that basically governs itself and where uniformed officers don’t enter for fear of immediate violence. The agent is on the trail of the suspected terrorist Le Moko (“Pepe” thanks to his French upbringing) (Jean Dujardin). The agent gets close and is on his trail, with his hand on his weapon when Le Moko turns around and says “Not in my village, monsieur.” Then a crowd of villagers swarm on the agent and form a blockade around Pepe. After a moment the swarm dissipates and Le Moko is gone.
Post-credits: A number of groups are after Le Moko: The Algiers police led by Inspector Slimane (Said Taghmaoui), who is able to enter the casbah and even talks with Le Moko but knows he’ll never get him into custody and live; the Algerian government, which suspects him of funding insurgency against the military order; and the Americans, who set up the undercover agent and consider Le Moko a funder of revolutions in Africa.
Slimane is strolling through the casbah and runs into Pepe at a restaurant. Slimane goes off on a speech about how he will catch Le Moko, who responds that well before Slimane hatches a plan to extricate him from Algiers he’ll already be in France again – “loving my retirement.” We see Pepe end his night with an exotic beauty – but he wakes up instead in a different place, and is confronted at breakfast by his wife, Ines (Archie Panjabi). He smooth-talks his way out of her suspicions.
Le Moko evades a pair of outlandish capture attempts, and one of his flunkies tells him the casbah is impenetrable and he never will go to prison. “This is my prison,” he answers. “I cannot leave. I have paid my penance, and I am ready for release.” He talks of his childhood in France and his growing disgust of seeing the same confined spaces of the casbah every day.
While at dinner – again with another beauty – Le Moko walks over to chat with Slimane, who is dining with tourists Gaby (Mila Kunis) and her fiance. Pepe is taken with Gaby, and we see hints that she is taken with him as well. During dinner Gaby excuses herself to take a walk and Pepe does the same. He tells her of his love for France, and she – a season world-traveler – agrees with him.
The next day Pepe is miserable and it takes all the efforts of his flunkies to keep the capture attempts at bay. His mind is on Gaby and fleeing to France. Ines knows this as well. The next night Pepe and Gaby rendezvous and jam out at a music bar. Gaby pries into Pepe’s life and he confesses that he isn’t much more than a myth. He’s allowed the stories of uprising and crime to manifest themselves into a legend. When he came to Algeria from France it was to study and he got caught up in the spirit of revolution. “The levels of misunderstanding were astounding and I did nothing to correct them,” he says. He would give any to get back to France. With her. Gaby is non-committal but asks how they would do it. He tells her of his plans for escape, which he’s been contemplating for years.
It turns out that Pepe’s escape plan was hatched for he and Ines, who has caught on to his latest – and most serious – dalliance and tries to stop him. But in seeing the determination in his eyes, she knows she cannot get in his way, and she lets him go. Pepe meets up with a flunkie who is made up to resemble Le Moko. They also get a woman to look like Gaby. The couple start on the casbah, on a covered rickshaw, with a big public display from a flunkie telling him not to leave the casbah. Slimane, ever-present, catches on and follows the couple. He alerts his superiors – who converge on the edge of the casbah. But Slimane is stopped in his pursuit by Ines, who points in the other direction. Next we see the real Pepe sneaking onto a chartered plane, with Gaby trying to sneak through the airstrip to follow him. Pepe smiles and enters the plane – to find Slimane, cuffing him. Pepe is led away and looks back to the plane to see Gaby ascending the stairs of the plane – and her fiance at the top waiting for her.
Algiers: They rock the casbah, and until it’s time to roll.
Next up: The Great Ziegfeld (1936)