Whimsy, social commentary fall flat in ‘Micmacs’

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Wednesday, June 16, 2010 7:41pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

Give him a bunch of knick-knacks, some baling wire and Scotch tape, and a few garden gnomes, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet will make a movie.

How else can you explain “Micmacs,” a kooky little fantasia from the director of “Amelie” and “City of Lost Children?”

Jeunet is a tinkerer, and he has made a film about tinkerers.

The opening sequence introduces us to Bazil (Dany Boon), a doofus at a video store, who takes a stray bullet in the head but survives. After recovering (the bullet’s still in his noggin, but this hasn’t affected his dazed personality), Bazil falls in with a wacky troupe of misfits living at a junkyard.

You get the idea that living with this crowd is Jeunet’s idea of heaven: a contortionist (Julie Ferrier) and a human cannonball (Dominique Pinon, the delightful troll-faced acrobat from Jeunet’s other films), plus assorted mechanical and linguistic savants making oddball creations out of junk.

When the movie gears up for a plot, it’s to set Bazil upon the arms manufacturers responsible for the bullet in his head (and, as it happens, the land mine that killed his father).

In this, Jeunet surely taps into free-floating antagonism about the fat cats of the world, and he has some fun delivering his own version of a coup de grace to the military-industrial complex.

You’d have to be a former CEO of Halliburton not to enjoy these jokes, and “Micmacs” is indeed easy to take. Jeunet’s visual cleverness is abundant, and the audience that ate up “Amelie” should find much to love about this one.

But I have to say that for a certain segment of the audience, Jeunet’s whimsy can begin to resemble fingernails on a blackboard. And I’m afraid I’m in that sector of the audience; when he decides he’s going to apply his winsome style to something that carries a bit of social comment, Jeunet can fall flat.

To my eyes, the director’s style, which mixes his taste for steampunk gizmos, crazy colors and cartoon characters, is at its best when shaded by ominous material, as in the hilarious “Delicatessen.”

Granted, a movie that begins with the main character getting shot in the head would seem to have a dark side. But “Micmacs” is really just a soft caramel candy with a fancy wrapper.

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