Directors can be a pretty serious bunch, so it’s refreshing to see guys like Jean-Pierre Jeunet having so much fun making their movies that it’s evident just from watching it. The French filmmaker has been surprisingly absent from the world cinema scene since 2004’s “A Very Long Engagement,” but his return was definitely worth the wait. Jeunet’s latest film, “Micmacs,” may just be his best yet – a whimsical crime caper that boasts his trademark visual style, a classic Max Steiner score, and an ensemble cast filled with familiar faces. Though it likely won’t have the crossover appeal of “Amelie,” “Micmacs” is one of the most enjoyable moviegoing experiences of the year.
Dany Boon stars as Bazil, a Parisian video store employee whose father was killed in a landmine accident when he was kid. After he’s shot in the head during a freak accident of his own, Bazil awakens to learn that he’s not only been replaced at work and had his apartment given away, but that the bullet which nearly killed him is still dangerously lodged in his head. With nowhere to go, Bazil is adopted by a group of eccentric, trash-salvaging inventors who live under the local junkyard. When he realizes that the military contractors who manufactured the bullet and landmine are located within the city, however, Bazil teams up with his new friends to exact revenge on the men responsible for ruining his life.
Though a lot of Juenet’s films have a fairy tale-like quality to them, “Micmacs” takes it one step further by surrounding its main protagonist with quirky companions not unlike the Seven Dwarfs. But instead of Dopey, Grumpy and Sleepy, there’s a contortionist (Julie Ferrier), a human cannonball (Dominique Pinon), a girl who can calculate anything in her head (Marie-Julie Baup), and a guy who only speaks in idioms (Omar Sy). Each character has their moment to shine, but Pinon is the clear standout in a role that falls somewhere between his circus performer from “Delicatessen” and his ill-tempered lover from “Amelie.” Dussollier and Marié also turn in great performances as the film’s villains, but it’s Dany Boon who’s the heart, soul and funny bone of the story.
It’s hard to believe he wasn’t Jeunet’s first choice, because Boon seems tailor-made for the role – a modern day Buster Keaton with the ability to entertain the audience with even the most basic pantomime. Once the film moves into the revenge portion of the story, however, the comedy veers more towards the slapstick, with each zany set piece leading to the next, even zanier set piece like a Rube Goldberg contraption designed by Danny Ocean. It’s all done so effortlessly, and with Boon and his co-stars so charming throughout, that you’d have to be in a pretty sour mood not to walk out of “Micmacs” with a giant grin on your face.