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Magnolia Pictures & Magnet Releasing/YouTube

It’s time for more absurd superhero movies like ‘Smoking Causes Coughing’ 

Quentin Dupieux’s absurd comedy Smoking Causes Coughing, now streaming on Hulu, is a breath of fresh air. 


Audra Schroeder


Posted on Aug 10, 2023   Updated on Aug 15, 2023, 7:48 am CDT

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The state of superhero movies is fairly bleak right now. They don’t look good, and the repetitiveness of many of them is wearing thin at the box office. Did Marvel movies, as Adam Devine recently posited, ruin comedies

That’s debatable, but if you want a different kind of superhero movie (as in, French), Quentin Dupieux’s absurd comedy Smoking Causes Coughing, now streaming on Hulu, is a breath of fresh air

John Waters put it on his list of best films of 2022, correctly labeling it a “superhero movie for idiots that surpasses all the tedium of Hollywood blockbusters.” It screened at Fantastic Fest last year and got some buzz as well. 

It follows a Super Sentai-esque group called Tobacco Force, which is called on to fight intergalactic foes. After one gory opening battle, the group is told by its boss, a literal rat who looks like an extra from Meet the Feebles, that a bigger threat is coming, who is looking to rid the galaxy of the “sick planet” of Earth. They must go on a retreat to regroup. 

You’d think this is where the character-building of the heroes—all named after toxic components in cigarettes—takes place, but Dupieux instead uses them to tell surreal campfire stories. And they are very French: In one scene, after a freak accident, a man is reduced to just a disembodied mouth, and asks for a puff of a cigarette. Elsewhere, a robot helper is trained to kill itself after completing its mission. 

This isn’t new territory for Dupieux, who previously did music under the name Mr. Oizo: His 2010 film Rubber is about a murderous car tire and 2020’s Mandibles, which is also on Hulu, concerns a group of friends trying to exploit a giant fly

Much like Marvel and DC films, there is an end-credits scene in Smoking Causes Coughing. Unlike those films, it doesn’t tease another title or wrap anything up. Instead, it shows the tedium of the superhero existence, while also being very funny.   

Why it matters

Because most franchise superhero films are boring right now, and Smoking Causes Coughing shows us that they could be much more fun if they leaned into the absurd. Also, it clocks in at just 80 minutes, which feels like a gift these days. 

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*First Published: Aug 10, 2023, 6:00 am CDT