Cuteness Doesn't Work for Everything
When Micmacs director Jean-Pierre Jeunet uses a cutesy approach and a fantasy-color-tinted visual scheme to tell the story of a winsome Parisian girl, as he did with Amélie, the tone fits the subject. But when he uses the same approach to tell the story of group of homeless misfits working together to bring down the heads of two rival arms manufacturers, the result is a misfire.
The misfits are headed by Bazil (Dany Boon), a simple fellow who survived a stray bullet to his cranium and whose father was killed by a landmine. After being adopted by a group of strangers who live in a hidden shelter, he discovers the companies responsible for both the bullet and the landmine, and decides to teach their CEOs a lesson via elaborate tricks and schemes designed to play them against one another. We are encouraged to cheer for Bazil and his friends because they are so warm, quirky, and lovable, and in case we couldn't see that, they are each given distinct goofy personality traits and abilities-- one can make complex puppets out of junk, one constantly espouses cliché phrases, one's a contortionist who can fit inside a fridge, etc. Their plots are Rube Goldberg-styled, overly complex but oh-so-neat in their precise timing and results (they have shades of Amélie's little schemes to influence the lives of the people around her).
Frankly, it's all a bit obnoxious. Supposedly the childishness of the protagonists is meant to endear them to us, but I'd rather have sympathy earned through actual character dimensions. Toward the end, the movie even dares to take a serious stance against the evils of irresponsible weapons makers, a decision both ill-advised and clunky. Jeunet leaves no doubt that he can really put together a movie -- the craftsmanship here is admirable -- but unfortunately his style also tends to bonk you over the head. With Micmacs, he also reveals his politics are simplistic enough to create an entire simpleton's fantasy out of issues that deserve to be looked at beyond a naive point-of-view.
(Released by Sony Classics and rated "R" for some sexuality and brief violence.)
Review also posted at www.windowtothemovies.com.