Dir: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Rating: 3.0/5.0

Sony Pictures Classics

104 Minutes

I may be the only person I know that hates Amelie, director Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s most popular film. Yes, there may be some innovative sections to that sickly, saccharine film, but he did all of those same tricks before in the infinitely superior Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children. While Amelie’s follow-up, the sprawling A Very Long Engagement bested its predecessor, it still felt like Jeunet was coasting on the same tricks as before. After a five year hiatus (the director’s normal amount of time off between films), Jeunet returns with Micmacs, a sweet little confection that is more of the same thing.

If you’ve seen a Jeunet film before, you will immediately recognize his individual brand on the movie. Landscapes are painted in sepia, vivid colors exploding from phantasmagoric backgrounds. Characters, most often outcasts and people on the fringe, are little more than tropes, existing only to react to one another, act kooky and speak in a rapid clip. Much like some of Terry Gilliam’s movies, Jeunet’s works are populated in worlds that are cluttered and falling apart. But more than anything else, Jeunet is fascinated with how the characters in his films and all their silly little actions are interconnected.

There is little plot to speak of in Micmacs. A video store employee named Bazil (Danny Boon doing his best Little Tramp impression) is shot in the head by a stray bullet. When he recovers, he is out of the job and falls in with a gaggle of subterranean carnies. And as blind luck would have it, he stumbles upon not only the evil corporation that made the bullet still lodged in his skull, but directly across the street, the evil corporation that made the land mine that blew his poor, dear daddy to smithereens in the film’s prologue.

Bazil decides to take out these bad businesses, but the two owners are already engaged in a war of their own. So rather than charge right in, Bazil and his band of contortionists, human cannonballs, mathematicians and tinkerers ignite a plot that will push the feud into code red. The villains are clearly despicable human beings. One collects body parts from people like Mussolini, for heaven’s sake. Jeunet has chosen an easy track- corporations are bad- because it’s not his characters he wants us to concern ourselves with. Instead, it’s clear he wants us to get lost in this alternate reality of Paris and ooh and ah at his clever traps and humorous set pieces.

While a fun ride, Micmacs lacks gravitas because nothing much really is at stake. The gang takes out the most dangerous characters early in the proceedings, a trio of Africans trying to buy arms, and spend most of the film perpetrating sneak attacks after which they merely sit back and watch the fireworks.

Micmacs, although a better film than the cloying Amelie, is Jeunet at his slightest (unless you want to count Alien: Resurrection.) It lacks the emotional heft and intricate story of A Very Long Engagement, the magic and wonder of Lost Children and the black, lusty humor of Delicatessen. However, as a living cartoon Micmacs totally succeeds. Just don’t look beyond the surface for truth and beauty. The surface is all there is.

by David Harris
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