Writer/director Jean-Pierre Jeunet may not be a household name in America, but he certainly has a cult following among art film fans.
He has become known for his quirky cleverness and sumptuous visuals, whether the story is despairingly grim (“The City of Lost Children”), darkly whimsical (“Delicatessen”), fantastically romantic (“Amelie”), or broadly epic (“A Very Long Engagement”). His most commercial outing in America, 1997’s “Alien: Resurrection,” was probably his least artistically successful effort.
“Micmacs,” Jeunet’s first film since the 2004 war drama “Engagement,” is a nice return to his more carefree days. It’s a delightful, breezy, cartoonish caper that won’t change your life, but will put a smile on your face. It’s so much like a live cartoon that it even unapologetically dips into the Looney Tunes bag of tricks, complete with people being shot out of cannons.
The story follows Bazil (Dany Boon), a charming loner who works in a small video store and can recite dialogue from his favorite movies as he watches them.
An accident that occurs outside the store results in a bullet being lodged in his brain — his second bad experience with weapons, as his father was killed by a land mine years earlier.
After he is released from the hospital, Bazil finds that he has lost his beloved job and that he has been kicked out of his apartment.
He tries to perform for money on the streets, but he has no real talent. Eventually, he is taken in by a ragtag gang of junkyard dealers who are quirkier than a clown factory, and they are the real charm of the film.
It’s an odd yet endearing family of misfits, which includes Elastic Girl, a contortionist; Calculator, a woman who can size up anything just by looking at it; Tiny Pete, an inventor; and Mama Chow, the matriarch of the bunch. There’s also Slammer, who has spent most of his life in prison, and Buster, who dreams of being in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Bazil is warmly welcomed into the family, shown how to contribute to their society, and begins making friends — especially with Elastic Girl.
But around town one day, he spots the headquarters of the weapons manufacturers that caused all of his misfortune. He sets out to take revenge on them, with the help of his faithful gang of wacky friends.
They devise and execute elaborate schemes that plot the corrupt weapons leaders against each other, and things escalate to explosive proportions — literally.
Jeunet certainly lets the silliness run rampant here, but it’s fertile ground for his lush, playful visual style.
“Micmacs” is — above all else — very cute and entertaining. It may get too whimsical for some, but it’s light and fun.