Micmacs Review

Micmacs is a very difficult film to categorize. It’s much like a live action cartoon with an anti-gun message. Micmacs is a heist film, populated with oddball characters battling gangsters in France. Writer/Director Jean Pierre Jeunet (Who directed the excellent Amelie and the dreadful Alien: Resurrection) has created a comical version of the Losers with social commentary. Imagine an episode of Leverage starring the Loony Toon characters and you’ve got the idea.

This unique example of farcical French cinema bounces along, unhindered by logic, forcing you to accept its absurdist style and suspend all disbelief. The original title Micmac a Tire Larigot means “Non-stop madness”, which is an appropriate title for this art-house oddity.

Bazil (Dany Boon) has had his life ruined by weapons. His father was killed by a landmine in Morocco, which caused his mother to have a mental break down and Bazil was brought up in an orphanage. He grows up to be an obsessive movie buff and therefore gets a job as a video store clerk, so he can watch his favorite films over and over. He has the Big Sleep memorized. But weapons are about to destroy his life again, when he is caught in the wake of a drive-by shooting and gets a bullet in his head.

The rest of the movie shifts into surreal mode, like a cross between Tex Avery and Max Fleischer. It’s never made clear whether the bulk of the film is the irrational dream of a comatose man who’s seen too many movies, or whether these insane events are supposed to really be happening to Bazil. Either way, from here on in, it gets strange.

After getting out of the hospital, Bazil finds that his apartment and job are no longer waiting for him. Worse, the bullet is still in his brain, meaning he could die at any time. Broke, homeless and jobless, Bazil does his best to make a living on the streets. He is very imaginative about it. In one scene, he hides on the opposite side of a pillar from a woman who is signing on the subway for cash. Unseen by her, he lip-syncs her songs, pretending to be singing soprano, thus getting donations of his own.

Eventually he runs into “Slammer” (Jean Pierre-Marielle), who’s spent a good part of his life behind bars. Slammer brings Bazil to the junkyard dwelling of his extended family of misfits, constructed out of the discarded debris and trash of society. Inside, Bazil finds a new family, all of whom are as unusual as a troupe of sideshow freaks. Among them are Remington (Omar Sy), a verbose writer; Calculette (Marie-Julie Baup) a young math wizard; Fracas (Dominique Pinon), a former circus human-cannonball; La Mome Caoutchouc (Julie Ferrier), a contortionist; Petit Pierre (Michel Cremades), a tinkerer who can cobble together anything out of spare part, MacGyver style; and Mama Tambouille (Yolande Moreau), the matronly cook who looks after the others like a surrogate mother.

A chance encounter leads Bazil to the two weapons dealers (Andre Dussollier and Nicholas Marie) who caused his lifetime of misery. Gathering his new family of oddities as his army, Bazil begins a series of Ocean’s 11 style scams to rob the two villains of their ill-gotten gain and turn them against each other. (The bad guys are just as eclectic as the rest of the cast. One of them collects parts from famous dead people, buying objects like Mussolini’s eyes and Churchill’s nail clippings.) Bazil’s lifetime of watching films provides him with fodder for his covert war against the unsuspecting war-mongers. He and his allies are remarkably efficient in hoodwinking the bad guys. They’re like a non-violent A-Team.

The anti-gun message is not subtle and Jeunet is not afraid to make powerful enemies because his film ties French President Nicholas Sarkozy in with the smugglers. His style here is reminiscent of a modern Dickensian morality tale directed by Terry Gilliam. Dany Boon carries the film as the Chaplinesque Bazil, who is both street-smart and sympathetic.

Except for Bazil, the other characters only exist to serve a plot purpose and be generally strange. They are cartoon cut-outs of real people but this fits the style of the film, especially if you choose to believe this is all a hallucination of a dying man (Which is left to interpretation). This is a genuinely odd movie and it’s not for everyone’s taste but if you like surrealism and silliness, you’ll enjoy Micmacs.

DVD Bonus Features:

The features include a “Making of” featurette; a Q & A with writer/director Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Julie Ferrier; a director’s commentary tract; and a funny animated segment called “Absurd deaths”.

"Micmacs" is on sale December 14, 2010 and is rated R. Comedy. Directed by Jean Pierre Jeunet. Written by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Starring Andre Dussollier, Dany Boon, Juliette Ferrier, Omar Sy.

Rob Young

Robert is obsessed with movies. He has a background in advertising and a long history of freelance writing but there's nothing he loves to write about more than movies. Let him dissect a film and he's a happy man. His favorite movie stars of all time are the Marx Brothers. He hates Cheech and Chong.


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