Sean-Pierre Jeunet hasn’t directed many films, but they’ve all been terrific, distinctive and stylish. Two you’ll hopefully have enjoyed already are The City of Lost Children and the weird Amélie. With Micmacs (original title Micmacs à tire-larigot) Jeunet moves into comedy with his signature quirkiness, and the result is delightful and hilarious.
The story revolves around misfit Bazil (an appealingly simple Dany Boon), who grows up in a wealthy but fatherless house — his father has been killed while trying to defuse a landmine. Bazil is somewhat of a slacker who happily wiles away the hours of his life working in a video rental shop in Paris. One night a car chase and shootout transpire in front of the shop and, through happenchance, he ends up with a bullet lodged in the front of his brain.
Bazil meets up with a troop of fellow misfits, discarded people who scrape a living out of salvaging discarded items and reassembling them to be useful and interesting. This is the theme of the film; it’s powerful and a terrific launching pad for lots of comic situations. Bazil eventually wreaks his revenge on the two corporations that were responsible for the land mine that killed his father and the bullet lodged in his skull in a complex series of cons and tricks reminiscent of The Italian Job and House of Games.
There’s a sense of visual inventiveness in Micmacs that is aided by cinematographer Tetsuo Nagata (Splice, La vie en rose) that contributes to the wonder of the movie. At times it’s as if we’re seeing a sort of human Rube Goldberg machine, where the sequence of events transpires in a logical but astonishing manner, with its conclusion just what Bazil desires.
Once Bazil becomes homeless, he’s adopted by a family of fellow misfits that live in a cave within a massive junkyard, notably including Elastic Girl ( Julie Ferrier), human cannonball Buster (Dominique Pinon), master thief Slammer ( Jean-Pierre Marielle), Calculator (Marie-Julie Baup), Congo (Omar Sy) and Mama Chow (Yolande Moreau), who acts as the house mother and leader of the group.
I’ll single out two of these as being particularly delightful: I really liked Calculator and found her a sweet, sympathetic character, and Congo, whose constant misuse of common clichés led to much hilarious dialogue. In their own ways, each of the Micmacs group were misfits, offering up the perfect new family for Bazil, who had never found himself after the death of his father.
The antagonists are the owners of the two weapons manufacturers, the thuggish Nicolas Thibault de Fenouillet (Andre Dussollier) and the suave, sophisticated Marconi (Nicolas Marié), who is a single father but is more interested in his television than his son, who is relegated to eating meals in the kitchen with his nanny while Marconi dines solo at a formal dining table.
I really enjoyed Micmacs, and despite flaws in terms of character development and depth, the visual inventiveness and audacity of the cons utilized to bring down the arms makers create a delightful cinematic experience. For reasons I cannot fathom, the MPAA gave the film an “R” rating. Quite the contrary, I’d say a “PG” would be more appropriate and surmise my teen daughter would be delighted by the story.