Quentin Dupieux's cult hit Rubber had the good manners to open with a direct pronouncement of its philosophy: "No reason," Stephen Spinella's layers-deep meta impresario (Officer Chad) repeated again and again.
But with Dupieux's second film, we have to do the work ourselves. Over a crack in some asphalt, to spacey sounds on the soundtrack, a road worker crouches to relieve himself, reading the paper, observed by his workers just as dawn breaks. Title card comes up: WRONG.
We cut to a flip clock at 7:59. We wait for the numbers to turn. And then it happens – 7:60, to an over-the-top music cue of dread. Our hero is clearly going to have an odd day.
Upon discovering that his dog is missing, Dolph (Jack Plotnick) heads out to the front yard, speaks with his neighbor who refuses to admits that he jogs, checks the mail and receives a call from his gardener, who is a few feet away. He doesn't talk long, though, because he's on the other line with the operator from Jesus' Organic Pizza. He's not ordering a pie, he's trying to reason out the logo on the flyer – why is there a rabbit on a motorbike? Dolph and the woman, Emma, discern that it is there to connote the swiftness of the delivery, but they both agree that the use of a motorbike somewhat undercuts the natural quickness of a rabbit.
These hazy, short-attention-span tangents are liable to happen at any given moment in Wrong, but eventually, if you have the patience, a narrative will emerge. The dog was taken by Master Chang, a spiritual vigilante played with verve and delight by William Fichtner. With an accent that sounds something like a little kid pretending to be the Swedish Chef, Master Chang confesses that he takes animals from random pet owners, as a way to prevent the spread of pet abuse. He takes animals, instills a sense of loss, then returns them, increasing the amount of love and appreciation on behalf of the owner. Only this time there's a problem. Master Chang has lost the dog.
Despite being haughty and mysterious, the tunic-wearing Master Chang with his Richard Garriott braid doesn't want to leave Dolph high and dry. He hires a missing-animal detective (played by Eastbound and Down's Steve Little) and lays a copy of "My Life, My Dog, My Strength Volume Two," a tome that, with enough study, may enable Dolph to communicate with the pooch telepathically.
Steve Little's methods of tracking utilizes the magic of bleeding edge technology, such as taking a cell from the dog's feces, and, with the aid of computers, extracting visual (but not audio) signals of "its" last memory. After a tour of canine intestines, we see the grass upon which it was left and, maybe, some clues.
The psychic powers, however, involve a lot of study, deep breathing and looking at awesome graphics of dogs with third eyes and intimidating-looking arrows and signs.
As Dolph persues both avenues, he still goes to work – a miserable, cramped office where it constantly rains indoors. The boss' office, however, is dry and soon Dolph is called in, bluntly reminded that he was fired three months ago and has to stop showing up.
Wrong is textbook surrealism, but played in the most deadpan manner possible. Try to imagine David Lynch's television show "Twin Peaks" with all of the crime plot taken out and just the little oddball asides remaining.
I'm certain that Wrong is the type of film that offers up treasures upon repeat viewings. Only at the very last moment did I notice that all of the globes on the office desks were upside-down. Who knows what other little goodies I missed?
Clearly, though, Wrong is not for everyone. I enjoyed the film, but not as much as Rubber, Dupieux's film about a killer tire. That film, apart from having a little more pop in the violence department, is more clearly about something with its frequent cuts to the desert-bound audience "watching" the movie. It seems clear to me that the joke is on anyone who looks for meaning in this new one. This cavalier attitude to traditional storytelling can be frustrating, but Wrong also has a greater willingness to travel down tangential rabbit holes. For example, there's a whole sequence when Dolph's gardener (who dies of fright after being on the receiving end of some of Fichtner's telepathy) apparently comes back to live and has a full arc with Emma, the pizza store worker.
Whereas Rubber kinda-sorta had a point, Wrong, to its detriment, is pure silliness. Fun silliness, but ephemeral silliness nonetheless.
Picture a scene where a man walks to his truck, only to find a man painting it blue. "Sir, I took it upon myself to paint your vehicle blue." The man politely responds that he prefers it the original color and the painter nods and leaves. If weirdo random stuff like that makes you laugh (and, I must say, it does for me) then Wrong is definitely worth your attention.