Micmacs

What a wonderful film! From director Jean-Pierre Jeunet who brought us the delightful Amélie, Micmacs is the story of a group of misfits who, to avenge the wrongs done to one of their family, conspire to bring down a couple of big arms dealers. It is a perfect political comedy, a genre that (with a few exceptions) only foreigners seem to be able to pull off.

At the center of the story is poor Bazil played by Dany Boon, whose father was killed by stepping on a landmine and who as an adult just happens to be in the wrong place and gets shot in the head. He awakens to find that the bullet is lodged there permanently and could kill him at any time, and on top of that he has neither a home nor a job. Wandering and panhandling, he meets a man on the streets of Paris who sees right away that Bazil is in need of “a family.” The man takes him to a junkyard heap where he introduces him to a quirky band of characters who live together in an ingenious underground home. This warm and wacky group includes a contortionist, a human calculator, a Guinness record-holder for Human Cannon Ball distance, a maker of fabulous animatronics machines and others all recycling the world’s garbage for art and profit.

When Bazil stumbles upon the people who made the landmine that killed his father and the bullet that changed his life, both arms dealers in offices just across the street from one another, he feels compelled to do something to stop them. His newfound family is all too happy to help. The ensuing schemes pit the arms dealers against one another and use all the skills these junk repurposers possess to a hilarious end.

Jeunet knows how to use visuals to move a story along like no one else. There are times it feels like the best of silent film; Dany Boon’s face is reminiscent of Harold Lloyd. But the script and wordplay are also pitch perfect. I laughed out loud more in this film than I have in a very long time. Just as in Amelie, the world Bazil and his friends inhabit is pure fantasy surrounded by a very real Paris.

I’d recommend this to anyone who needs to laugh and isn’t put off by subtitles or a cast of mainly unknown faces. It really is fabulous. And my mother liked it, too. (In its native France, Micmacs‘ full title is Micmacs à tire-larigot, which translates as “Nonstop Shenanigans.” )

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