"Last year, Jean Dujardin won Best Actor for The Artist," Seth MacFarlane joked at the 2013 Oscars: "This year, he's . . . everywhere." With Monuments Men and now The Players, Dujardin is still far from having the last laugh. An extended riff on marital infidelity, this is the rare omnibus film that isn't just a mixed bag -- it very nearly succeeds at being uniformly bad.
Eight or nine stories offer slight variations on the theme of married men behaving badly, with deeply unfunny vignettes of dudes getting caught cheating in increasingly outlandish ways serving as interludes between the episodes proper. Dujardin and Gilles Lellouche appear in every story, sometimes as bit characters and sometimes as the two philandering protagonists who serve as the movie's only real throughline; what emerges is an episodic portrait of two sad men and the lonely corners they've backed themselves into. Both project phony cockiness in the face of their failing marriages, trying (and slowly failing) to reinforce their myopic view of themselves and the world.
The only exception isn't the one directed by The Artist's Michel Hazanavicius but Emmanuelle Bercot's La questione, in which a man and his wife of more than a decade confess their past transgressions one misguided night. It's the only time that genuine emotional substance, not gimmicky humor, serves as the driving force, as well as the only reminder of how Dujardin won that Oscar in the first place.