Originally Reviewed – 6/23/2010
Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet is one of those filmmakers that everybody knows yet nobody’s heard about. With a career that started with the critically acclaimed black comedy Delicatessen and peaked with the fan favorite Amelie, Jenunet is known for mixing striking visuals and dark comedy with a deeply human element. While his latest feature, Micmacs, doesn’t have the texture of Amelie or the morbidity of Delicatessen, the film re-stamps Jeunet as a virtuoso behind the camera. Packed with imagination, beauty and a frantic, infectious energy that I haven’t seen since the aforementioned Amelie, Micmacs marks a return to form, especially for fans who fell in love with 2001’s quirky French brunette.
The main arc of Micmacs is a fairly straightforward story of salt of the earth pranksters instigating a war between two competing weapons manufacturers. The main character, played by Dany Boon, catches a stray bullet right to the cranium that, now lodged deep in his skull, can kill him at any moment. But rather than go through life cautiously avoiding head trauma, he enlists a team of scrap scavengers to help him bring down the corporations that made his imminent demise possible. What follows next is a series of ingeniously inventive traps, schemes and ploys that feed the fires between the two rivals, with often explosive results.
As you can tell from the synopsis, the screenplay is fairly by the numbers, as is the character development. With the exception of Boon and his contortionist love interest, the rest of the team suffers from lack of screen time and proper development. The same could be said for the war mongering antagonists as they play the standard bad guy archetype you’ve seen a hundred times. To be honest, I barely remembered the lead characters name, never mind the names of his cohorts. Also, the ending (not the surprise at the end, but the eventual result) was crystal clear a half hour in. While this may seem a recipe for failure, Micmacs only benefits from these omissions; anything more detailed, more complex or more cerebral and the spirit of the film would have been totally lost.
This is not a complex film by any stretch of the imagination, but the simplicity in character development and storyline gives way to a visual treat that more than makes up for the threadbare plot. Jeunet re-establishes himself as a wizard behind the camera with a depth of imagination that is almost breathtaking. Billed as a satirical tale about the dangers of the weapons industry, Micmacs eschews subtlety for explosions, trickery and a grand final set-piece that even had me fooled for a bit. From the contortionist flexing her way out of trouble to the charming creations of the elderly inventor to the harebrained schemes these crusaders concoct, it all has a wild joy about it that shrouds any flaws in the narrative
Micmacs knows what it is from the first frame and never pretends to be anything more than a stunning visual guilty pleasure, with a deeper meaning you can either absorb or leave at the door. The film has a whimsical, fairy tale quality to it that is joyful and infectious. Like anything overly saccharine, you may or may not have the taste for it, but like a five year old on a candy binge, I nearly went into diabetic shock during this film while loving every minute of it. Micmacs plays like a wild Saturday morning cartoon with a visionary director pulling the strings and the result is memorable. It’s not the deepest of film going experiences, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a more enjoyable lighthearted farce in the cinemas this summer.
Score – 85%