Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 05/18/10 09:44:36

"Delightful in every mischievous detail."
5 stars (Awesome)

SCREENED AT INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL BOSTON 2010: Jean-Pierre Jeunet's newest film took a few days to grow on me, but that's the nature of Jeunet: The years between new films and intricate detail are often associated with weighty, "important" films, but Jeunet has a light touch at his best; his biggest mis-steps have come when trying to tell bigger stories. Here, he's mostly just having fun, and while that doesn't seem like much, it makes "Micmacs" a joy to watch.

Fun movies don't usually start with someone getting shot in the head, but that's what happens to Bazil (Dany Boon), a video store clerk who chooses the wrong moment to step outside. The doctors decide that the immediate risk of removing the bullet outweighs the fact that it could kill him at any time, so he's let go, but once he comes out of his coma, his job and apartment are gone. A group of misfits living in a nearby garbage dump take him in, though, and soon go along with his scheme to strike back at the munitions manufacturers who made both the bullet in his head and the land mine that killed his father.

Yes, the lovable misfits really do live in a garbage dump, albeit an unusually tidy one; Jeunet and co-writer Guillaume Laurant are not exactly hiding a metaphor there. They don't feel the need to shout it at the audience, though there are moments when the whimsy is pushed back. The extended flashback to Bazil's father, for instance, has a veneer of childish sentimentality to it, but is serious enough to give Bazil a layer of melancholy even though you could otherwise argue that getting shot in the head was a good thing for him (it led him to wonderful friends). And while there is a serious idea or two underneath the whimsy - merchants of death too concerned with one-upsmanship to care about the effects of their business - Jeunet never loses sight of his primary goal being to entertain an audience.

And he does that nicely. There's not a character in the film who doesn't make the audience laugh at some point, including the villains (in fact, the banter between Nicolas Marié's François Marconi and the his son is one of the movie's funnier recurring bits). None of the group Bazil hooks up with is a downer, and his ever more elaborate plans are delightfully absurd in concept. They play out with grace, outlandish even within the exaggerated world Jeunet has created, precisely controlled bits of comedic chaos.

Micmacs has a fine comic ensemble, but Dany Boon is at the center of it. He's got a gift for physical comedy, though more as a mime than a purveyor of slapstick and pratfalls, as well as the ability to be the guy who can react to strangeness with either a double-take or shrug, as the situation demands. He's a sad clown, but never one who drags the film down. Still, it's the kind of performance that can't stand on its own - it needs the smug villainy of Andé Dussollier and Nicolas Marié as the weapons execs, Julie Ferrier as the smitten contortionist, Dominique Pinon as the cranky human cannonball, and every other minor actor who brings something funny to his or her part, no matter how small.

Which is right and just, because that's the nature of a Jeunet film - there is no piece too small to be done well. And because he and his collaborators invest so much in everything on screen for every minute of the film, even a relatively small story like "Micmacs" becomes a triumph.

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