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Micmacs (Sony Pictures Classics, R)

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Micmacs takes Jeunet's famed whimsical sensibilities and crosses them with an Ocean's Eleven-style caper.

When everyone was going nuts for directors Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro's The City of Lost Children back in '95-'96 (and retroactively, Delicatessen), I was left lukewarm. There were things I respected about both movies (Delicatessen in particular) but had trouble mustering up much enthusiasm for either. Jeunet dropped Caro and made Alien: Resurrection by himself in Hollywood in '97, which I never saw, but his real breakthrough came in 2001, when he made Amelie. Again, everyone went nuts for it, and I was right there with them. Maybe Caro was holding him back from being as accessible as was required for me? Some goodwill splashed over onto his next feature, 2004's A Very Long Engagement, but in a lot of ways I felt about that one the same way about Children and Delicatessen—I liked things about it, but I don't know how much I liked the whole thing. It certainly didn't hurt that it starred Audrey Tautou, who the world couldn't help but fall in love with after playing the titular character in Amelie. And here Jeunet comes again with Micmacs, still with no Caro but this time also lacking Tautou, and it seems to me that all that time it was really Tautou that I liked and not Jeunet—not that I dislike Jeunet per se, but he just leaves me cold, and Micmacs follows his history of slightly above mediocrity.

takes Jeunet's famed whimsical sensibilities and crosses them with an Ocean's Eleven-style caper. Our hero is a fellow named Bazil (Dany Boon) who mistakenly takes a bullet in the head early on in the film, and spends most of the rest of the film trying to get back at the manufacturers of the weapons that caused him so much grief with the help of a ragtag group of similarly mischievous folks from a homeless commune, each with their own specialty and name to match (Calculator, Elastic Girl, Mama Chow).

There is certainly some fun to be had in Micmacs—a lot of the Mouse Trap-type tactics taken to gain entry into buildings and, or cause their enemies grief are cleverly planned and executed (think what Betty Boop's Grampy would be up to in a live action French film, and you're getting pretty close), but where it succeeds as an amusing diversion, it fails to produce anything that you'll remember a few days after you see the film. There's nothing wrong with that, but after having seen Jeunet working at his best, it's hard to take him going back to fare such as this. Sure, perhaps the most memorable thing in Amelie was the creation of a star in Tautou, which is a kind of banal thing, but the most memorable thing about Micmacs is when Bazil passes a billboard for the film Micmacs while riding his motorcycle down the street. It's clever, sure, but Jeunet's going to have to do better than that in the future to remain in the dialogue regarding the important modern filmmakers of the world. | Pete Timmermann

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