After running through a gauntlet of elevators and security guards at the Sony Tower in midtown Manhattan, I entered a small screening room to see the French film Micmacs. Micmacs follows a group of ragtag junkyard denizens as they attempt to help a newcomer in their midst get revenge.
The story opens with Bazil (Dany Boon) receiving word that his father has died after stepping on a landmine in the Moroccan desert. Bazil is effectively orphaned, as his frail mother winds up institutionalized. Several decades later, Bazil is working his shift at the local video store when a random act of violence gets him a bullet in the head.
Bazil returns home from the hospital—bullet in skull—only to find out that he has lost his housing and his job. Suddenly homeless, Bazil scrapes by as a street performer. He crosses paths with Slammer (Jean-Pierre Marielle), a life-long criminal who was pardoned after the guillotine failed to take his head off. Slammer takes Bazil to the junkyard run by Mama Chow (Yolande Moreau). Bazil becomes part of a group that includes, amongst others, Remington (Omar Sy), a Congolese ethnographer; Buster (Dominique Pinion), a man desperate to make it into the record books; and Elastic Girl (Julie Ferrier), a contortionist with more than a friendly interest in Bazil.
Shortly after his “adoption,” Bazil happens across two gigantic buildings that bear the logos of the weapons that destroyed his life. Vowing to get even, Bazil and his new friends work to deceive two unscrupulous arms dealers (Nicolas Marie and Andre Dussolier).
While I watched Micmacs, I couldn’t help but compare it to an earlier Jeunet film, Oscar-nominated Amelie. Both films have a zany charm, presenting gentle dreamers given to surrealistic fantasy sequences. Bazil and Amelie lost parents at tragically young ages, like old movies, distract themselves with silly questions, and anxiously avoid romantic attachments. The plots of both films are driven by coincidences and fortuitous events, have quirky characters who achieve their ends by (repeatedly) breaking into other people’s homes, and present comical sex scenes. In fact, three of Micmacs' cast members also appeared in Amelie.
Unfortunately, Micmacs doesn’t work as well as Amelie did, which I chalk up to an inappropriate tone. While Amelie was basically a romance, Micmacs touches upon corporate greed, international arms dealing, terrorism, and even genocide. To make matters worse, the arms dealers come off like caricatures, despite Jeunet’s efforts. A much darker tenor would have been more suitable for this film.
Micmacs was funny, but not hilariously so. The word that kept coming to mind during the screening was “cute,” and I found myself fidgeting despite the 104-minute run time. I anticipate that Micmacs will have a respectable run in certain American theaters; however, I would suggest that anyone interested in this film wait for the DVD.