Wednesday, July 7, 2010
"Micmacs" is French for "shenanigans," and there certainly are plenty of them in this farce about a troupe of riffraff giving the middle finger to evil corporations.
It's a sweet and funny confection, with some biting satire swirled into the batter.
Dany Boon plays Bazil, who lost his father to a mine in Afghanistan in 1979. Thirty years later, he's working at a cruddy video store when a bullet from a random drive-by shooting lodges in his skull. Doctors couldn't pull it out safely, so now "any minute my brain could pop," he confides.
Bazil's not exactly the confrontational type -- he's more like a street mime perpetually out of costume, sometimes punctuating his words with intricate little hand claps and snaps, or speaking in excited gibberish. But it seems to him that the two arms manufacturers who caused (in his mind) the twin tragedies of his life ought to pay for their crimes.
Penniless and jobless after his long recuperation, Bazil is "adopted" by a group of junk collectors who live inside a fortress of scrap metal. They collect salvage and fix it up, or turn it into bits of mechanical art. This motley crew launches a series of carefully orchestrated practical jokes designed to pit the two companies' arrogant CEOs at each other's throat.
Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet ("Amelie"), who also co-wrote the script with Guillaume Laurant, infuses the action with a puckish humor and a generous helping of slapstick. There's an almost silent-movie quality to the high jinks, and Boon has a little bit of Buster Keaton in his mopey expression and passive-aggressive stubbornness.
Imagine a heist movie directed by Terry Gilliam in French, and you've got a good idea of the vibe of "Micmacs."
(Incidentally, the entire original title is "Micmacs à Tire-Larigot," which means "non-stop shenanigans." I guess they had to stop for the English version.)
Bazil's chief co-conspirator is La Môme Caoutchouc (Julie Ferrier), a contortionist who develops a crush on him -- I think I felt my back crack watching her unbelievable bending and twisting.
There's also Placard (Jean-Pierre Marielle), an elderly con man; Fracasse (Dominique Pynon), a stuntman who celebrates his many injuries; Remington (Omar Sy), an African with strange speech patterns; a mousy little woman who can calculate the dimensions of anything she sees; and a mousy little man with the strength of an elephant.
The heavies are Nicolas Thibault de Fenouillet (André Dussollier), a politically-connected arms dealer whose hobby is collecting celebrity body parts -- nothing starts a party like offering to show Marilyn Monroe's molar -- and his younger upstart competitor, François Marconi (Nicolas Marié), whose voice reaches a screeching decibel when he's upset.
"Micmacs" isn't anything terribly original or clever, but it's a modestly enjoyable caper. Maybe with more heart than brains -- if I were Bazil, I'd be hassling the guy whose gun shot me, and not the company that made the bullet.
2.5 stars out of four