Review by Nathan Samdahl (C)
Amazed by Amelie, yet underwhelmed by A Very Long Engagement, I really didn't know quite what to expect with Micmacs, the third film I've seen from famed French director Jean Pierre Jeunet. Sadly, Micmacs falls a bit short of both other films. Micmacs follows the main character Bazil, who is taken in by an oddball group of characters known as the Micmacs after he is struck in the head by an errant bullet and subsequently loses his job and apartment. Together they help Bazil take down two weapons manufacturers (that sit right across the street from one another), one of which created the bullet that shot him and the other that made the landmine that killed his father. It is sort of Duplicity meets The Ladykillers, with a bit of the Coen brothers' Hudsucker Proxy thrown in. It's a fun, interesting concept that should have a lot going for it.
Unfortunately, despite the noble endeavor of Bazil and his wacky cohorts, I found it very difficult to strongly relate or sympathize with any of the characters. Unlike Audrey Tautou, who can be a bit goofy and a lot quirky while still engaging the audience, Bazil, played by Dany Boon, comes off as an awkward, sort of oafish character despite his ability to generate a super sophisticated corporate espionage scheme. I should want to root for this guy because he was shot, but I almost found myself relating more with the more grounded-in-reality CEOS of the weapons manufacturers than with Bazil's whimsical character.
Perhaps this criticism is too strong, as overall, Micmacs looks great, utilizing a lot of visual aesthetics Jeunet made famous in Amelie (carefully crafted and exact camera moves, and an amazing scene-stealing production design rife with strong colors). The performances are also fine, it's just that I didn't care and it didn't seem that the charcters did either. Part of this could be that the film never really fluctuates in intensity. After a strong opening in which Bazil is accidentally shot in the head, Bazil seems to simply coast from one location to the other. Even in the parts where buildings are exploding or the corporate CEOS are getting their comeuppance, I felt so removed from the characters and the plot that none of it seemed to matter.
Bazil's antipathy for these arms companies comes off as rather sudden, forced and insincere (okay, he was shot with a bullet and a brief flashback reveals his dad being blown up by a landmine, which he defused for a living). Bazil appears to just happen onto these companies by walking on the street (rather than intentionally seeking them out). It almost seems as if there were two movies at odds here, one that tells the story of Dany's integration into the Micmacs, who find and fix junk for a living, and one that tells of Dany's persistent attempts to take down these two weapons manufacturers. Separate, each film can work, but together they compete for attention, ultimately creating an uneven film, where the latter storyline prevails. The most original part of the story, the Micmacs, are thus weakly developed, creating a band of characters each known by one or two traits rather than an eclectic fully developed group that the audience can get behind.
This is a film that could have been strong. However, both story and character fall short here. If you loved the quirkiness and beauty of Amelie, you will probably enjoy this film, but to a much less extent. Perhaps a little Audrey Tautou injection here would help a bit.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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