LOUIS Director Dan Pritzker's playful silent comedy features beautiful women cavorting in frilly lingerie, a jazzy score overseen by Wynton Marsalis (which he'll perform with an ensemble at special screenings) and a shooting style that mimics the look of pre-talkies cinema. So why isn't Louis more fun? In 1907 New Orleans, 6-year-old Louis Armstrong (Anthony Coleman) dreams of escaping poverty by becoming a musician. Woven together with this fictionalized account of the iconic trumpeter's childhood are the exploits of a young prostitute (Shanti Lowry) searching for her baby's father and a corrupt judge (Jackie Earle Haley) plotting to be governor. Venerable cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond drapes Louis in gray-palette elegance while giving the action the herky-jerky, sped-up motion that modern audiences associate with old silent movies. But no matter Haley's skill at Chaplinesque balletic clowning, or Lowry's feisty carnality, Pritzker invests too little time in too many skimpy storylines, resulting in an episodic slackness that reduces the film's faux-silent technique to little more than a visual gimmick. Louis may superficially resemble movies of a bygone age, but it lacks their essence: masterful effortlessness. (Tim Grierson) (Fallbrook)

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