Micmacs ** ½
Directed by: Jean-Pierre Jeunet.
Written By: Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Guillaume Laurant.
Starring: Dany Boon (Bazil), André Dussollier (Nicolas Thibault de Fenouillet), Nicolas Marié (François Marconi), Jean-Pierre Marielle (Placard), Yolande Moreau (Tambouille), Julie Ferrier (La Môme Caoutchouc), Omar Sy (Remington), Dominique Pinon (Fracasse), Michel Crémadès (Petit Pierre), Marie-Julie Baup (Calculette).
On a purely surface level, Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Micmacs is a joy to behold. The director of such films as Amelie and A Very Long Engagement has always been among the most visually inventive of modern directors, marrying his strange stories with visuals that somehow make them all the more compelling and strange. Watching Amelie is still a breath of fresh air – and hugely original take on a genre that more often than not seems to simply be going through the motions. Sadly though, there is a similar feel to Micmacs – that Jeunet is simply going throught the motions this time around.
The movie is about Bazil (Dany Boon) whose father was killed when he was a kid, and as an adult he goes outside his job one day when he hears gunshots, and ends up getting hit in the head with a stray bullet. The bullet, now lodged in his brain, cannot be removed because it could kill him or turn him into a vegetable, so in his brain it sits, waiting for the moment when it cause his head to blow. When he gets out of the hospital, he has lost his apartment, all his things and his job. He starts working the streets, and is soon adopted by a ragtag group of misfits who salvage material to build their weird contraptions. But Bazil wants revenge – not on the people who killed his father and shot him in the head – but on the weapons manufacturers who gave them the means to do both. Luckily for him, they are located in town, across the street from one another. He and his new found family get together to try and destroy the two companies – by making each one think the other is trying to sabotage them.
All of this is told by Jeunet in his typical, inventive, irreverent style. His camera is free and moves along effortlessly through the streets. The visual effects are pretty much a constant – and the primary joy of the movie is to watch as this motley crew of people devise more and more devious ways to get back at the weapons manufactuer. These people spend as much time planning elaborate hoaxes as Jigsaw does with his death machines in the Saw films.
All of this is quite enjoyable for a while – unfortunately the point in which it stops being enjoyable is about the half way point in the film. From there on in, we realize that none of these characters are people we actually care about – and Jeunet is so focused on the visuals and the contraptions that they aren’t likely to develop into those characters either. Everyone is pretty much defined by their physical characteristics and what they can do – because that is all the movie requires them to be. The two weapons manufactuer CEO look so similar that even now I’m not sure which one produced the bullet that is lodged in Bazil’s head, and which one produced the landmine that killed his father. And I don’t think it matters all that much either.
There is invetiveness in every frame of Micmacs, and perhaps I should be easier on the film than I am. Afterall, it isn’t many directions who would throw so much at the screen, and have so much of it stick. But in the end, I didn’t really care about what happened in the film. It glides along on its pluck and visual ingenuity, but sooner or later I grew bored with it all. So much talent went into this film, and so little comes out.