(director/writer: Jean-Pierre Jeunet; screenwriter: Guillaume Laurant; cinematographer: Tetsuo Nagata; editor: Hervé Schneid; music: Raphaël Beau; cast: Dany Boon (Bazil), André Dussollier (Nicolas Thibault de Fenouillet), Omar Sy (Remington), Dominique Pinon (Buster), Julie Ferrier (Elastic Girl), Nicolas Marié (François Marconi), Marie-Julie Baup (Calculator), Michel Cremades (Tiny Pete), Yolande Moreau (Mama Chow), Jean-Pierre Marielle (Slammer); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Frédéric Brillion/Gilles Legrand/Mr. Jeunet; Sony Pictures Classics; 2009-France-in French with English subtitles)

“Dripping with gooey crowd-pleasing sentimentality.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The title is slang fornon-stop madness.” French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Jeunet (“The City of Lost Children”/”Delicatessen”/”Amélie”)directs another bright-eyed fantasy flick, that means well even if it left me unimpressed with its slick arty contrivances and displeased that it was dripping with gooey crowd-pleasing sentimentality that turned me off when the film turned out so jejune.Jeunet’s playful fantasy comedy involves some ragtag misfits attempting to take down a pair of rich and well-established rival heavily fortified weapons manufacturers, with the heavies being merely symbols and never brought to life in the dramatization as real dastardly people.

It’s written by Jeunet and Guillaume Laurant, who keep it loony and with arunning social commentary that’s cartoonish in its simplistic political statements–seeming to think that by just making the gesture to turn on arms dealers is enough to show it’s serious. The pic finks out when it comes to anything serious, as it turns to mere silly drivel without coming after these modern day ‘wealthy from blood money’ villains with any hard-hitting spoofs (and it’s also never particularly funny, which never bodes well for a comedy) that can damage their world status as legit capitalists. Aside from the important subject-matter raised, this popcorn film can be viewed as your usual brain dead commercial venture with nothing to say but one that happens to be artfully stylish giving it an arty pretense.

There’s good reason for our mild-mannered hero, Bazil (Dany Boon), to consider weapon manufacturers the enemy: a land mine in the Sahara Desert in 1979 killed his French Foreign Legiondad, leaving him to grow up in an orphanage; and, secondly, as an adult a stray bullet from a street shootout lodged permanently in his head while he was working as a clerk in a video store. Before he was hit the film buff was getting off on repeating Bogie’s dubbed-in French talk in “The Big Sleep,” which was of the few funny moments in the film. This mishap caused Bazil to nearly lose his life, to lose his home, his job, and, so to speak, his sanity. After being released from the hospital he becomes a homeless panhandler and is soon recruited by ex-convict Slammer (Jean-Pierre Marielle), who long ago narrowly escaped the guillotine, to come live in Max’s junkyard with his eccentric group of outsiders called the Micmacs. His new adopted family helps him get revenge on the rival French arms manufacturers, both of whom were responsible for his life’s misfortunes and both have their offices in Paris, as Bazil targets the stuffed-shirt body parts collector of historical figures, the old-fashioned arms dealer Fenouillet (André Dussollier), and, the cold-hearted collector of expensive cars, the modern arms dealer Marconi (Nicolas Marié). The wacko inventive dump-scavengers, called the Micmacs, include beside Slammer: a love-struck contortionist (Julie Ferrier),an energetic talkative Congolese ethnographer (Omar Sy), an inventor (Michel Cremades), a calculator (Marie-Julie Baup) and, their matriarch, Mama Chow (Yolande Moreau). Together they act as family in innovative ways to sabotage the irresponsible arms dealers at every turn until they cause the financial fall of each firm.

The band of outsiders using disposable junk and gizmos in a creative warlike way for their political shenanigans, act like the American hippie Merry Pranksters– if they could ever be straight. The Micmacs band together in solidarity to show that if good people can unite they can defeat the forces of evil and greed, as the underdog social misfits cause humiliation to the big businessmen and knock the corporate arrogance out of these all-powerful politically connected venal firms who are held accountable by them for why the world is so violent. Of course, this simplistic and naive take on how to handle institutional crime is pure hogwash and not worth taking serious for even a sec as a way to handle it in the real world

If Micmacs reminds one of Mission: Impossible, Jeunet in interviews says that was his intention. Jeunet gives this schematic scenario his own bizarre signature touches in his set pieces, as the colorful oddball characters freely blow up things and cause all kinds of havoc; while the pic’s frenetic pace, its bright pop-art colors and its cartoonish story throws reality out the window in favor of Hollywood-like fantasies about good vs, evil. It’s all thin-sliced baloney, much like in Delicatessen, that’s served up cold in a slapdash comical way as it tries to remind one of the Chaplin and Keaton silents and of the more modern day humanist Tati and his social conscience comedies. How entertaining are its slapstick antics solely depends on one’s taste for such heavy-handed antics. I’m not a fan of Jeune, and had the same negative reactions to this unconvincing whimsical film as I did to his other films I took a pass on.

Micmacs à tire-larigot (2009)