Moviegoers disappointed with the lack of summer movie spectacles this year might want to check out “Micmacs,” a French caper with visual flourishes and a little humor.
Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet – who mixed the dark with the fanciful in films like “Delicatessen” – makes his sixth film breezy even with its arms dealer villains.
This movie’s main character is Bazil (Danny Boon), who was orphaned when his dad was killed by a land mine. As an adult, a bullet gets lodged into his brain during a drive-by accident – the bullet created by the same manufacturer that supplied the weapon which killed his father.
The mishap leaves this former video store clerk homeless, until he is adopted by a cheerful family of misfits living in a junkyard paradise. The inhabitants include contortionist Elastic Girl, expert measurer Calculator and hopeful anthropologist Remington.
From there, these specialized trash-scavengers assist Bazil in taking down two weapons corporation executives (one played by Andre Dussollier, who stars in fellow French summer import “Wild Grass”) through contraptions and trickery. One scene involves planting drugs and diverting dogs in a busy airport, while another calls for a human cannonball and jars of bees.
These elaborate set pieces effectively are the movie’s plot. However, that shouldn’t be a problem if moviegoers are willing to exchange fully-realized character development for Jeunet’s intricate, carefully realized visual detail.
Moreover, “Micmacs” is the now-rare summer movie that actually feels fun, with a tone somewhere between an old heist film and a Looney Tunes cartoon that’s recalibrated Acme Corporation as the villain. Jeunet and his crew should be commended for an interesting visual style that blends French whimsy, dumpster diving and circus shenanigans all into one package.
The film does make one notable misstep in a late moment when certain characters are kidnapped and taken to task for their involvement in weapons selling.
There’s plenty to condemn socio-politically about global arms trading, and it’s not that a slapstick movie can’t tackle a serious subject, either – Charlie Chaplin took on no less than Hitler in “The Great Dictator.” Yet the scene, where the kidnappers hold up real-seeming photos of maimed children, broaches the topic so lightly that it’s uncomfortable.
Nonetheless, the movie remains enjoyable enough to warrant a recommendation. In an extraordinarily weak summer where most multiplex movies can’t even muster visual interest – let alone tell an original story – “Micmacs” offers heaps of aesthetic inventiveness within its slapstick tale.