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Review: 'Billy and Buddy' translates into brisk giddiness

 Review: 'Billy and Buddy' translates into brisk giddiness
A scene from "Billy and Buddy." (Etienne Braun)

A live-action cartoon, "Billy and Buddy" manages to maintain the kind of brisk giddiness that many animated films struggle to achieve. But as family fare with a few unsettling Gallic touches, the boy-and-his-dog escapade is an odd fit.

Based on the long-running French-language comic-book series "Boule et Bill," the comedy spins around the bond between a likably enterprising red-headed 8-year-old (Charles Crombez) and the cocker spaniel who falls for him in part because they have the "same fur color." Theirs isn't the story's only instant love connection: The dog and a tortoise named Caroline share not just an interspecies crush but an ooh-la-la interlude set to a breathy Serge Gainsbourg-style musical number. C'est vrai.

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Manu Payet provides the droll voiceover for the pooch, who tries everything he can think of to ingratiate himself with the boy's exasperated father (Franck Dubosc). Marina Foïs ("Polisse") plays the skeptical mother, who doesn't take well to the family's move from suburbia to an ugly Paris-adjacent high-rise complex.

Directors Alexandre Charlot and Franck Magnier intercut the lively high jinks with less-than-cheery matters of marital conflict. Supporting roles — a neurotic neighbor (Nicolas Vaude) and fulminating headmaster (Lionel Abelanski) — are played ultra-broad, but the central players find the right balance between caricature and character as the family adjusts to change.

"Billy and Buddy." No MPAA rating. In French with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 19 minutes. At Music Hall, Beverly Hills.

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