It’s always a satisfying movie experience when a film has a fresh concept and a definite style and sticks to it all the way through. The movie may not appeal to all audiences, but it’s impossible not to appreciate the artistry and commitment of the work. Micmacs is that kind of movie. It’s silly and lighthearted, yet deals with a serious issue in a surreal fashion. There’s a definite time period audiences will need to adjust to the film’s reality, but when they do they’ll fall in love with the infectious allure that each moment of Micmacs exudes.
War is hell – and not just for the people that participate in it. The families of soldiers that fall in the line of duty understand this concept just as well as innocent bystanders that are injured as collateral damage. Bazil (Dany Boon) doubly understands this idea because he’s both; his father was killed disarming a landmine and Bazil later became the victim of a shooting that left a bullet lodged in his brain. After being released from an extended stay at the hospital, he finds himself jobless and homeless until he meets an unlikely group of junk dealers that help him get back on his feet. While on a routine salvage, Bazil discovers that the two separate arms manufacturers that created the mine that killed his father and the bullet that ruined his life are based in his city and are right across the street from each other! With renewed purpose and with the help of his new friends, Bazil sets out to bring the two industrial giants of destruction to their knees.
Visually Micmacs is a work of art. Every shot is composed so beautifully they seem almost otherworldly. The palette of colors and set designs perfectly complement the characters they represent, ranging from the warm and chaotic abode of the junkers to the cold and sterile home of Nicolas Thibault de Fenouillet (André Dussollier) and sickeningly decadent accoutrements of Francois Marconi (Nicolas Marie). So even though audiences may feel assaulted by the strange story at times, they’ll never feel put off because Micmacs is so pleasant to look at.
It’s the junkyard dealers, however, that are the heart and soul of this film. Bazil is handled perfectly by Dany Boon right down to his mannerisms and facial expressions. His performance is exaggerated, but is also pitch-perfect for the film and will easily remind of Chaplin’s best. Bazil’s friends also add a great deal of charm to the story, acting almost like real life superheroes with mundane, yet uncanny powers in the right situation. Calculator (Marie-Julie Baup) is a math whiz able to perform complex calculations on the fly. Tiny Pete (Michel Cremades) is a Hercules in a frail body. Elastic Girl (Julie Ferrier) is a contortionist that can fit in unlikely places. Together they form a misfit group, but their loyalty to each other and unwavering optimism will warm the heart. On the flipside, the villains are despicable through and through, without being over the top. It’s satisfying to have bad guys that any viewer can hate and feel good about it.
The most impressive yet subtle aspect of Micmacs is the writing. It’s almost unbelievable that a coherent story emerges from this oddball plot. Yet it does. It took courageous writers to decide that a hand-slapping sequence would be interesting on film or that echoes of The Big Sleep would make sense to modern audiences. Then, just for kicks, they threw in quick visual peeks into Bazil’s thoughts without any warning, assuming the audience would just follow along blissfully – which they will. Strangely, everything just fits – maybe not perfectly, but the final assembly is just as satisfying.