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'The Fifth Element' set to weird out theaters this weekend

Watch Milla Jovovich babble like Jodie Foster in "Nell" in the 20-year-old French blockbuster.
The Fifth Element
Bruce Willis (and a bunch of ladies) stars in the 1997 French blockbuster "The Fifth Element," returning to theaters nationwide this Sunday and next Tuesday. Credit: Sony

It’s the movie where Luke Perry dooms giant, lumbering space robots to death. Where Chris Tucker took over a role intended for Prince. Where the president is played by a wrestler. Where a blue diva with tentacles sings a hip-hop aria. Where Gary Oldman sweats chocolate. It’s the 1997 English-language French blockbuster “The Fifth Element,” and apparently it’s enough of a classic to swing by theaters this weekend for its 20th birthday.

Thing is, we agree! It is a classic! It’s one of the weirdest expensive movies ever made — like David Lynch’s infamous movie of “Dune,” only a lot more fun and a lot more French. (And we love David Lynch’s “Dune.”) Back in 1997, it was slipped into the summer movie season, sold as the next Bruce Willis movie. Perhaps unbeknownst to the casual multiplexer, it wasn’t even American. It was from those snooty French. And the snooty French had tricked the masses into watching a movie that ends with one of Hollywood’s biggest stars having sex with a humanoid incarnation of an element.

Specifically, it was the brainchild of one French person: Luc Besson, Eurotrash auteur, king of making Hollywood-style films but in his native France. He’d already unleashed “La Femme Nikita”; most recently, he turned Scarlett Johansson into an actual god in “Lucy.” This summer he’s back to being bewilderingly French on the biggest scale possible with “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” (whatever that means).

At the time Besson was married to Milla Jovovich. So he cast her as the aforementioned orange-haired element, who babbles in a made-up baby dialect that greatly outshines Jodie Foster’s feral lady-speak in “Nell.” Love her in “Resident Evil”? Well, she takes out untold baddies with backflips here.

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Visit the Fathom Events site to see if your city or town is playing “The Fifth Element,” which will roll out on Sunday and again on Tuesday. And then marvel that Americans flocked to the second best movie featuring recording artist Tricky, after Olivier Assayas’ drug saga “Clean.”

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge