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Wild Tales: Mild but mirthful 

Rating: ***

WILD TALES
***
DIRECTED BY Damián Szifrón
STARS Ricardo Darín, Oscar Martinez

Leonardo Sbaraglia in Wild Tales (Photo: Sony Pictures Classics)
  • Leonardo Sbaraglia in Wild Tales (Photo: Sony Pictures Classics)

An anthology film that calls itself Wild Tales can only truly deliver on its moniker by offering stories comparable to the insane likes of, say, Luis Buñuel's 1929 Un Chien Andalou (with that infamous eyeball-slicing scene), John Waters' 1970 Multiple Maniacs (featuring a character called The Puke Eater as well as the sight of a 15-foot-long lobster raping Divine) and David Lynch's 1977 Eraserhead (wild from first frame to last). Made for modern-day moviegoers who don't want their films too messy, Wild Tales is more often like mild tales, yet that's not necessarily a knock. A gargantuan hit in its Argentinian homeland as well as a recent Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, this still sports enough of a wicked edge to break away from other rowdy satires that are more cookie cutter than cutting edge.

Written and directed by Damián Szifrón, the picture — for better or worse — opens with its best skit: "Pasternak," in which everyone aboard an airplane all improbably seem to personally know the title character. This sequence works beautifully, largely because Szifron plays it close to the vest for much of its length, and its final freeze frame is nothing short of brilliant. The subsequent five stories — yarns centering on a waitress out for revenge ("The Rats"), a yuppie and a yahoo engaged in road rage ("Road to Hell"), a demolition expert (Ricardo Darín, star of Argentina's Oscar-winning The Secret in Their Eyes) experiencing a particularly vexing string of unfortunate incidents ("Little Bomb"), the cover-up of a hit-and-run ("The Proposal"), and a wedding in which admissions of infidelity fly fast and furious ("Til Death Do Us Part") — all prove to be entertaining, even if they're only able to offer outrageousness in carefully measured doses ("Road to Hell" arguably comes closest to go-for-broke consistency). Still, there's just enough of a maverick spirit on tap to satisfy the type of discerning filmgoer who even now is gripped with terror at the thought of that upcoming Paul Blart: Mall Cop sequel.

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