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IN PARIS AND READY TO HOWL

There's something spooky about France. Those pretentious wines and waiters! Those arrogant club doormen with earrings and attitudes! Those worldly women with unpronounceable names! Those movie fans who love Mickey Rourke!

Thrust three hapless young Americans into this boiling bouillabaisse, and they're toast.

Which is why "An American Werewolf in Paris" isn't a bad successor to that camp cult classic "An American Werewolf in London." God knows who deemed a second Werewolf movie necessary, but this new one, however redundant, has its good points.

It's filmed well, splashed with the golden light of monster comics. Boulevards sparkle; alleys glitter in the rain.

And the werewolves! They inhabit the impressive, hairy no-man's land between wild dog and great ape. They strike with slinky menace. There's one creepy scene in which Julie Delpy, crouched over our hapless American hero, whips her shirt off over her head and -- mon Dieu! She's not a lovely young woman anymore! She's a monster!

A werewolf movie doesn't need much plot, which is lucky, because "An American Werewolf in Paris" doesn't have much of one. It's easy to catch onto. Three young American guys arrive in Paris bent on doing the usual things: climbing the Eiffel Tower, hanging out in cafes, getting lucky with French babes. High up on the Eiffel Tower they meet Seraphine, a winsome French lass who appears to be attempting suicide.

In a stunning sequence involving bravado and bungee jumping, Andy (Tom Everett Scott) pulls her back from the brink. Later, we're not sure if this rescue was a good idea. Seraphine's wide, tragic eyes hide a secret: When the moon is full, she changes into a werewolf. If she inadvertently (hey, monsters will be monsters) winds up biting one of our heroes, he will share her fate.

That's why Seraphine has herself regularly locked up in the cellar. Not that the Americans catch on at first. It takes them forever to catch on to the fact that something is horribly wrong.

While we're waiting for them to wake up and smell the French roast, funny moments crop up.

Nasty Frenchman: "You are under arrest."

Hapless American: "What for?"

Nasty Frenchman: "Ze possibilities are limitless."

It's not a good sign when the Americans are hooked into attending a techno dance party -- something that would be called a rave -- in a secret, underground venue. The pounding beat, the ruthless-looking, sarcastic doorman, the Satanic imagery . . . everything points toward a blood-soaked werewolf feeding frenzy just around the corner. (Admit it, techno culture is nice and sinister. "An American Werewolf in Paris," saturated with pounding rock, gets points for bringing that out.)

The rave is occasion for more hilarity on the snobby-French theme. "Welcome, Americans!" shouts the Parisian master of ceremonies. "We love you, Americans! You have such good taste, Americans!"

Hope for a happy ending lies in the fact that Seraphine has good intentions, and amazingly, even when she is a werewolf, she is able to reason and attack selectively. (I had trouble swallowing that part, but well, this is France.) This movie's werewolves can reason; they can turn on each other. Watching these monsters fight is a joy.

So what's next for our American werewolves? I fear another flick. We could go for the exotic ("An American Werewolf in China"). Or for the familiar but Twilight Zone-y ("An American Werewolf in North Tonawanda").

Delectable though these possibilities are, though, I foresee more predictable sequels. Even Paris is pushing it. Next, I think, we'll be seeing "An American Werewolf at the Second-Run Theater," followed by "An American Werewolf at the Video Store." And the final installment, "An American Werewolf on the 3/$10 Clearance Table at Kmart."

Now, that's scary.

REVIEW
An American Werewolf in Paris
Rating: **
On vacation in France, three hapless American guys battle the macabre. Starring Julie Delpy and Tom Everett Scott. Rated R, opens today in area movie theaters.

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