To simply call the new Jean-Pierre Jeunet movie ‘Micmacs’ non-stop madness, the English translation of its French title ‘Micmacs à tire-larigot,’ is an understatement. The action-slapstick comedy stars such supporting actors as Andre Dussollier, Nicolas Marie and Julie Ferrier, who Jeunet compared to the Seven Dwarfs. Lead actor Dany Boon also spontaneously added traces of Charlie Chaplin to his character Bazil in this movie about getting vengeance and revenge against those who have morally-corrupt actions.
The movie starts off during Bazil’s childhood, when he was orphaned after his father was killed by a mine that exploded in the Moroccan dessert. The movie then cuts to Bazil as an adult, working in a video store, when he gets hit by a stray bullet during a freak accident.
After undergoing surgery (during which the doctors leave the bullet in his head) and being released from the hospital, Bazil loses both his home and his job. After living on the streets for a couple of months, he is taken in and ‘adopted’ by a group of scavengers who live in a salvage yard. Along with his diverse group of new friends, who include Calculator, Slammer and Elastic Girl, Bazil is determined to take revenge on the weapons companies that caused his misfortunes.
Before watching ‘Micmacs,’ it’s hard to image a comedy being focused on a main character who is determined to take revenge on weapons manufactures. It’s easy to believe that Bazil would go about executing his self-imposed mission in a more serious manner. Since the movie was also made and set in France, it was also questionable if the French’s need for revenge would translate well to Americans.
But once the movie starts to play, all questions are swept aside. With their diverse and descriptive nicknames, just like the Seven Dwarfs, as Juenet calls them, each of Bazil’s new friends perfectly fit into his scheme of revenge, and they all bring a natural wit to their parts. Buster, for example, is proud of the fact that he’s a human cannonball who’s made it into the Guinness Book of World Records, and Elastic Girl, who can stretch and bend like rubber, and fits into the most unexpected places. The group also has good chemistry as they agree to take in and help Bazil, their leader, or their ‘Snow White.’
Even though he played the main character, Boon is still the standout star. He made Bazil humbling when he was bombarded with support from the scavengers to bring down the weapons companies. He also showed that he connected to the character, even though Juenet wrote Bazil to slip into fantasy and imaginary worlds. Boon has said he enjoyed bringing fantasy into adulthood, and it shows.
But while the point of the movie was for this down-on-his luck character seek revenge on the weapons manufactures, Nicolas Thibault de Fenouillet (played by Dussollier) and Francis Marconi (played by Marie), it was questionable there was more of a backstory to them than Bazil’s group of friends. While it’s easier to build backstories for two characters as opposed to seven, it was confusing on why the scavengers would be so willing to help someone they just met. Jeunet said he wanted the group to join forces against the ‘businessmen of death,’ but it would have been easier to understand their motivations if more of their lives were revealed.
The movie, which runs for 104 minutes, could have been cut down 15 minutes to an hour and a half, as the theme that the weapons dealers should be stopped was getting a bit redundant. The point Juenent was trying to make is true-he said his inspiration for the movie came when he was editing ‘The City of Lost Children’ next to the Dassault factories. He would often go to a restaurant where the Dassault engineers would go, and was bothered that they seemed to be living care-free lives, even though they were creating weapons that kill people. But Juenet could have cut down on some of the tricks the scavengers took part in, as towards the end, they were no longer fresh and exciting.
But Juenet did succeed in showing that Paris shouldn’t just be portrayed as the City of Love in movies, Nicolas and Francis were both portrayed as the stereotypical morally corrupt ‘bad guys.’ Their actions of greed and selfishness, as well as their ultimate outcome, were predictable, much like those portrayed in American movies.
Juenet also deserves credit for limiting the number of visual effects he used in ‘Micmacs,’ as opposed to his film ‘A Very Long Engagement,’ in an effort to make it more realistic. He said he also tried to include some different shots of Paris than the traditional, more well-known places. Instead of showing the Eiffel Tower, Juenet included the architecture from the 1930s, the city’s metro and the Galeries Lafayeete.
While ‘Micmacs’ premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2009, debuted in France the next month and was also shown at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2010, so far it has only made about $13 million against a $34 million budget. While several aspects of the movie could have been improved, anyone who enjoys physical comedy with morals will enjoy ‘Micmacs.’
Written by: Karen Benardello