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One cinematic surprise inevitably yields a dozen imitators; here’s hoping that the post-Amélie run of irrepressibly cute French romantic dramedies has about petered out. Actually, if Love Me If You Dare is any indication, it already has: Though comparisons will inevitably be made between director and co-writer Yann Samuell’s debut feature and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s 2001 art-house hit, the two films ultimately share little more than a penchant for acrobatic computer-assisted camera techniques and a plot that turns on a totemic child’s toy. Friends from childhood, 30-somethings Julien (Guillaume Canet) and Sophie (Marion Cotillard) have been playing a no-holds-barred game of dare since age 8. Whichever of the pair holds a tin container emblazoned with a carousel calls the dare, and the other cannot refuse. Once the challenge is completed, the tin changes hands and the game begins anew. Whether the order is to curse in class, pee in the principal’s office, or create chaos at a wedding reception, the two always find a way to outdare each other. As they grow older, sex, jealousy, and life in general conspire to complicate both the game and their relationship, which moves from friendship to love to enmity and back again. Though the film spans several decades in Julien and Sophie’s lives, the pair never really grow up: They remain selfish, impudent brats well into their adult years. The simpering leads—the smirking, shruggy Canet in particular, who’s essentially the French version of Patrick Dempsey—play out their romantic dance like an extended take on one of those old Taster’s Choice ads. Indeed, much of the cinematography has the too-slick feel of a television commercial, and the schizophrenic editing quickly becomes gimmicky to the point of distraction. Yann and co-scripter Jacky Cukier also make the mistake of going for a twist ending that confuses rather than concludes the story, leaving the complicated relationships Julien and Sophie have with several secondary characters hanging. Love Me If You Dare, it seems, possesses little in the way of irrepressible cuteness, romance, or dramedy. If only Samuell could have done something about that “French” part. —Jason Powell