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Film / HOUBA! On the Trail of the Marsupilami

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[screen shows a photo of Pablito next to a llama]
Clarisse Iris: This is your guide, Pablito Camaron.
Dan Geraldo: On the right or the left?

HOUBA! On the Trail of the Marsupilami (French title: Sur la piste du Marsupilami) is a 2012 Franco-Belgian movie, written, produced and directed by Alain Chabat. It is a Live-Action Adaptation of the Marsupilami, a Franco-Belgian Comics character created by André Franquin in 1956.

Dan Geraldo (Chabat), a washed-out reporter, is given one last chance to revive his career. He must go to Palombia to report on the Paya people and the secret of their longevity. With his guide Pablito Camaron (Jamel Debbouze), he ventures into the Palombian jungle. In the process, the duo confirms the existence of the Marsupilami, a mythical creature.

Meanwhile, 82-year-old botanist Hermoso discovers an unknown species of orchid, which he find out can be used to create a rejuvenating potion. With the help of the treacherous Corporal, he topples the Palombian dictator, General Pochero (Lambert Wilson), and goes hunting for the Marsupilami, which happens to be linked to the orchids.

Add in an ancient Payan prophecy predicting The End of the World as We Know It if the bad guys get their hands on those two treasures of the Palombian forest, and the protagonists are in for a wild ride.

Despite the Shared Universe of the Franquin comics, it has no ties to either The Adventures of Spirou and Fantasio or Gaston Lagaffe (which aren't connected either).

HOUBA! On the Trail of the Marsupilami provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Jamel Debbouze's character, Pablito, riding a reluctant llama, utters at one point, "You're not moving at all, Ganja." Just like his character in Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra, another Alain Chabat movie, who has the same problem but with a donkey, says: "You're not moving at all, Cannabis."
  • Amusing Injuries: Any damage inflicted on the soldiers fighting the Marsupilami is purely for laugh. One of them get slammed into the ground head-first... and then makes this muffled comment: "Hey, there're moles...."
  • Argument of Contradictions: Pablito and General Hermoso have a lengthy argument over Chouniño, Pablito's coati pet.
    Pablito: It's a coati.
    Hermoso: No, it's a raccoon.
    Pablito: It's a coati.
    Hermoso: No, it's a raccoon.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: "The world will fall into chaos. The birds will sing wrong. The jaguar will be eaten by the rabbit. The tree will cut the lumberjack. And everything will taste like passion fruit."
  • As Herself: Céline Dion.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: The Paya language is mostly funny-sounding gibberish, with a few obscure references thrown in.
  • The Atoner: Dan Geraldo publicly confesses on TV that his first report was a fake, before he can be outed by his boss.
  • Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop: The Chiquito policemen aren't very concerned with upholding the law, for example ignoring an attempted mugging a dozen meters away. (And Pablito is trying to get arrested.)
  • Battle Discretion Shot:
    • Dan getting blowpipe-darted. We only hear the "pfft" sounds and see Pablito cringing.
    • The Marsupilami taking care of the three gangsters at the end. We just see the end result of them smashed against a wall, and leaving an imprint of their tattooed faces.
  • Berserk Button: Pablito can't stand being called a liar. He doesn't quite get violent about it (because he's a weakling), but he's very intent in proving he always told the truth about the Marsupilami.
  • *Crack!* "Oh, My Back!": Old Hermoso, when trying to give a demonstration of "Austrian Savate". And later, after falling from an elevator platform, he stays stuck for three hours before Pétunia comes help him.
  • Creative Closing Credits: A staple of Alain Chabat's movies.
  • Cruella to Animals: The Corporal delights in making animals suffer and watching species go extinct.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The Marsupilami against the soldiers trying to capture him. They stand absolutely no chance.
  • Cute, but Cacophonic: The Marsu babies making it known that they're hungry.
  • I Am Not Weasel: Pablito always corrects people that Chouniño is a coati, and not an otter or a raccoon.
  • Impact Silhouette: Dan Geraldo leaves one through a wall after being kicked by super-strong Hermoso.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Boosted Hermoso uses, among other things, billiard balls and fake carrots as darts to take out the Marsu.
  • I'm Standing Right Here: Dan on the pirogue, recording his reportage, mentions Pablito.
    Dan: My guide, Pablito Camaron. Puny, underfed, probably illiterate...
    Pablito: I can hear you from that close.
  • Incredibly Conspicuous Drag: Pochero dressing as Céline Dion to distract the palace guards.
  • Insistent Terminology: Hermoso hates being called a gardener; he's a botanist.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Spoofed with Dan Geraldo, who's not at all intrepid and barely competent. His first reportage in Palombia happens to be a complete fraud. He gets better by the end of the movie, though.
  • Is This Thing On?: Dan does this with the business end of a blowpipe. To be fair, he didn't believe it was held by a real Paya.
  • Jaw Drop: Clarisse at the first sight of the Marsupilami.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Pablito is a Con Man scamming naive tourists for their money, but he does it for the sake of his numerous adopted children.
    • Dan Geraldo is an arrogant westerner and his first reportage is a fake, but he does some redeeming heroics at the end.
  • Jungle Japes: A non-video-game example.
  • Just Ignore It: The two guards outside the secure room would rather ignore the Corporal's antics, including when he's beaten up by the Marsupilami.
  • The Klutz: Dan Geraldo. If there's a pit to fall in, he'll fall in it. The scene where he destroys General Pochero's Céline Dion shrine stands out. At another time, he almost swallows his own tongue.
  • Latin Land: Palombia, again. It mixes South American and Mexican influences. (Note that the movie was filmed in Mexico.) This is also fitting with Franquin's original depiction of the fictional country in the comics.
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: The chihuahua scene is this for Jamel Debbouze in the DVD bonus.
  • Lightning Can Do Anything: Electricity, instead of hurting the Marsupilami, tickles and makes him laugh. As the Corporal discovers when shocking him with a cattle prod.
  • Literal-Minded: The Corporal has some trouble with metaphors. Also used for a Brick Joke.
  • Loony Fan: General Pochero is obsessed with Céline Dion.
  • Loud Gulp: The Marsupilami, being found out by Hermoso, loudly gulps down the cake he's eating.
  • Ludicrous Precision: It sounds like this when Pochero announces that he'll give Dan and Pablito a diversion for "3 minutes 31, maximum." But it's in fact justified, since as a Céline Dion fanboy, he knows the exact length of the song he's about to use.
  • MacGuffin: The glowing orchids, both for the Marsu and the Big Bad.
  • Made of Incendium: After the Céline Dion dolls fall from their rotating pedestals, they start catching fire for no reason at all.
  • Malaproper: Pablito, although much toned down compared to other roles by Jamel Debbouze. He's even the one correcting Dan on the proper pronunciation of "Marsupilami".
  • Mayincatec: The Paya.
  • Mean Boss: Clarisse Iris.
  • Medium-Shift Gag: The prophecy is told in animated form via a "magic Super 8 projector" or somesuch.
  • Metafictional Device: In-universe example: Dan Geraldo's father shakes a TV screen violently while yelling at his son to stop making a fool of himself... and just at the same time, in Chiquito, the whole set coincidentally starts trembling.
  • Military Coup: Hermoso performs an accelerated one, thanks to the help of the Corporal.
  • Mooks: The palace soldiers.
  • Mushroom Samba: The berries that the Paya feed to the protagonists induce this.
  • Mythology Gag: Several to André Franquin and his works, naturally.
    • The half a baseball that Pablito keeps as a souvenir was autographed by famous Palombian player "Andreo Franquino".
    • Hermoso was born in Bretzelburg, the setting of one album of Spirou & Fantasio.
    • The jeep used by Hermoso wears a logo of a black circle with three arrows shooting from it. It is a Palombian symbol from the Zantafio era.
    • The Marsupilami swinging from his tail with his four fists aimed forward (to take out Hermoso) is a move previously used in another album (to take out a gorilla!).
  • Neck Lift: In the palace jail, Bolo grabs Pablito by the neck and lifts him, and then does the same to Dan simultaneously.
  • Never Mess with Granny: Pablito pretends to steal the bag of an old woman to be thrown in jail; he gets a few cane strikes for his troubles.
  • Nobody Here but Us Birds: Pablito suggests they'd agree on a bird call to use as a signal, but all Dan can do is quacking like a duck.
    Pablito: A duck in the jungle? There's nothing shocking you?
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: The Marsupilami takes his revenge on the Corporal in a quite violent pummeling. Very satisfying.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Pablito (and Dan), at the sight of the Giant Mook Pablito just antagonized.
    • Pablito at the sight of the real Paya.
  • Older Than They Look:
    • Hermoso under the effect of the orchid juice.
    • The Payas live to be very old thanks to the orchid. The gorgeous queen is 249 years old.
  • Omniglot: The Paya queen claims that she speaks all languages.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted and parodied; a lot of the soldiers seems to be named Carlos.
    [Carlos gets accidentally shot by a Tranquillizer Dart]
    Corporal: Sorry, Carlos.
    Carlos: No, I'm alright...
    Corporal: No, the other one.
  • Overly Long Scream: The two times Dan Geraldo falls down a hole, he lets out a scream lasting for a few scenes.
  • Papa Wolf: As in the comics, the Marsupilami is fiercely defensive of his young, who are still in their eggs.
  • Parody Commercial: A couple for an anti-aging cream are seen mid-movie. Part of the plot, as they are commercials for Dan's channel's sponsor, which would also be very interested in the orchids.
  • Parting-from-Consciousness Words: Dan Geraldo gets a dozen of blowpipe Tranquillizer Darts in the face before fainting.
    Dan: It stings a bit.
  • Pass the Popcorn: A pair of Paya actually eat popcorn during the animated prophecy projection.
  • Phrase Catcher: "Un animal qu'on croyait qui n'existait pas mais qui n'existe !" ("An animal which we believed don't exist but do exist!") — yes, the poor grammar is intentional.
  • Piranha Problem: Marsu still eats them.
  • Point That Somewhere Else: Kiki the parrot tries pushing away a machete held under its throat with its claw.
  • Porn Stache: General Pochero has the expected mustache for a South-american leader. It sure makes the Céline Dion song even more hilarious.
  • Prehensile Tail: Guess who.
  • The Prophecy: The lengthy Payan prophecy shown in animation, designating both protagonists as The Chosen One and identifying the Two-Faced Man as the Big Bad.
  • Punch! Punch! Punch! Uh Oh...:
    • Dan attempts to stun Bolo from behind with a metal tray. The Giant Mook only gets more annoyed.
      Dan: ...I regret this gesture...
    • Pablito tries to knock out a big soldier from behind with a branch. The soldier barely notices, thinking it's a bug.
  • Putting on the Reich: Once Hermoso really starts handling things at the palace, his choice of symbols and uniforms are definitely Nazi-inspired. He mentions that his mother was Hitler's chambermaid, after all.
  • Quiz Show: How a de-aged Hermoso introduces himself to General Pochero.
  • Race Against the Clock: Toward the end, Dan has to reach the TV Palombia studios in time to broadcast his report.
  • Raise Him Right This Time: The final fate of Hermoso; after overdosing on his Fountain of Youth orchid extract, he turns into a baby.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: The baby Marsupilamis.
  • Sand Necktie: Happens to both Dan and Pablito after they're captured by the Paya tribesmen. They're buried about a meter from each other, and spends most of their time bickering, blaming each other for their predicament. Pablito manages to catch a pebble in his mouth and spits it into Dan's face at one point. And then there's the incident with an amorous chihuahua....
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Pétunia, Hermoso's assistant, calls it quits once her boss begins Putting on the Reich and exploiting the Marsupilami.
  • Secret Path: There's a secret trapdoor inside the palace prison cell. When asked why he didn't mention it, Pochero answers, "It was a secret."
  • Shout-Out:
  • Showing Off the New Body: Hermoso looks at himself in a mirror after being de-aged. It's still his own body, but he hasn't seen himself like this in 40 years.
  • Sick and Wrong: How Pétunia reacts when she realizes that the man she'd been flirting with is in fact the old professor Hermoso.
  • Signs of Disrepair: When the earth shakes in the studio, the letters for Dan Geraldo's name start to fall, leaving only "DAN GER".
  • Single-Stroke Battle: Parodied (in slo-mo) during the fight between Hermoso and Marsu.
  • El Spanish "-o": Most of the Gratuitous Spanish in the movie consists in adding -o at the end of French words.
  • Speak in Unison: When Dan and Pablito recognizes "the Woman of Gold and Silver" and realizes that they are right in the middle of the prophecy, they both say the exact same thing at the same time. And promptly lampshade it, still in unison.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: Pablito claims that animals love him and that he can understand them. Sure, he's good at taming them, as seen with the parrot and coati, but it doesn't always work in his favor (see: chihuahua).
  • Special Effect Failure: invoked Entirely intentional with both the parrot in the "first aid" scene and the chihuahua in the "dog assault" scene being very obvious puppets. It makes the scenes twice as hilarious (as "hilarious" as a rape scene can be, though).
  • Spontaneous Choreography: Very much spoofed with the palace guards joining ex-general Pochero in an intricate Céline Dion number.
  • Static Stun Gun: The Corporal is very fond of tasering people with little provocation. He even tries to use a cattle prod on the Marsupilami. Bad idea.
  • Strange Salute: The Palombian soldiers have a weird salute, with the thumb touching the head, the pinkie raised and the other fingers closed.
  • Sudden Musical Ending: The last part of the Creative Closing Credits.
  • Super Serum: The triple-concentrated orchid juice is this for Hermoso. It gives him enough strength and resilience to go toe-to-toe with the Marsupilami. Until he overdoses it, naturally.
  • Super-Strength: Hermoso, under the effects of the Super Serum, becomes strong enough to goes toes-to-toes with Marsu.
  • Sweet Tooth: The Marsupilami can't resist cake.
  • Tagalong Kid: Cassandra toward the end.
  • Tattooed Crooks: The three gangsters Pablito owns money to have tattoos all over the faces.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: At the end, Dan Geraldo manages to have Céline Dion sending a message of thanks to General Pochero. He couldn't be happier... too bad he accidentally erases the message.
  • Tracking Device: Hermoso and Pétunia manages to feed a tracker (shaped like a cherry) to the Marsupilami, in order to follow him in the jungle.
  • Tranquillizer Dart:
    • Exaggerated with Dan, who gets dozens of blowpipe darts in the face before fainting.
    • Later played straight with tranq darts fired by a rifle, which take out the Marsupilami (as well as a soldier by accident).
  • Two-Faced: When the effects of the elixir of youth start to wear off, half of Hermoso's face ends up old and wrinkled while the other half is still young-looking. He is even described as "the two-faced man" in The Prophecy, and Pablito identifies him thanks to this.
  • Vocal Dissonance: Bolo, a.k.a. "Little Voice", is a giant of a man with a ridiculously high-pitched voice.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Dan Geraldo.
  • A Year and a Day: "The volcano El Sombrero will shoot fire, devastating the Earth for 1,000 years and 2 and a half weeks."
  • "Yes"/"No" Answer Interpretation: Hermoso, talking to the Marsupilami, takes for a "yes" the pained squeal he emits when the Corporal nudges him with the barrel of his gun.


Alternative Title(s): Marsupilami, Sur La Piste Du Marsupilami