My decision to see Micmacs was one of the head, not the heart. I was not instinctively drawn to it, but rather chose to see it based on three factors:
1) I’d heard it was visually stunning (this ended up being true).
2) I’m thoroughly confused by, and thereby somewhat interested in, French cinematic tastes. This all began with Christopher Lambert, obviously. I mean, he’s considered a legitimate actor over there. But it isn’t just Lambert. Gerard Depardieu, Pierre Morel, The Smurfs, Jerry Lewis; those people are into some weird stuff. I’d like to get a better handle on that.
3) In college, some friends and I used to use the alias Nicholas Slack, most often shortened to Nick Slack. Eventually nickslack became a one-word insult for people we deemed square. In other words, people who didn’t smoke tons of pot. The title, Micmacs, reminded me of nickslack, which I’d forgotten, and I had a good laugh remembering it. The messenger must be rewarded, and Big Hatt always pays his debts.
These three things combined were enough to get me out to the Angelika on a warm summer’s eve. I didn’t really expect to like the movie, but it seemed to be research worth doing. Expanding my horizons, and all that. Not that I was super-excited. Had there been an Underworld movie to see it probably would’ve won out.
Micmacs follows the story of Bazil (Dany Boon) and his quest to get even with arms dealers that have, by various means, ruined his life. As a child, his father was killed by one of their land mines, and as an adult he is was shot in the head by one of their bullets and wakes up to find his job re-staffed and his house foreclosed. He is soon adopted by a band of misfits living in a dump (or something), and he enlists their aid in getting back at the arms dealers.
The whole thing is very silly, which I guess is how the French like their comedy. It all starts with Boon. He’s a classic sad clown character, saying more with his various melancholy expressions than with actual lines. There’s a healthy dose of slapstick in there too. I’m struggling even to describe him, because you would just never see this type of character in an american comedy, especially not in a leading man. I found him very irritating. There is something intangibly annoying about everything he does. The way he moves, the way he looks, the way he talks, everything. The first time you see him he’s squeezing some kind of cheesy substance into his mouth and mimicking lines to a movie he’s watching with great enthusiasm. The camera is really close up on his face. It made my skin crawl. Seriously, I wanted to punch his face. This was roughly three minutes into the movie.
I gather Boon is a big star in France, and I just can’t believe that. The man oozes aggravation. He pretty much ruined the movie for me. Bazil was essentially an ugly, slower-moving Charlie Chaplin who occasionally talks. Really outdated stuff. A quick peek at his Wikipedia page reveals some interesting tidbits: former mime, highest paid actor in Europe in 2008, took his name from the TV show Daniel Boone. The fact that this guy exists and has a country full of devoted fans is mystifying.
Like I said, Boon ruined the movie for me. But even with a non-ruiner in the main role it still probably wouldn’t have been very good. A creative look goes a very long way with me, but not far enough that I’ll enjoy a comedy that never once makes me laugh. The attempts at humor in Micmacs were cringeworthy. I’d call it childish, but this is clearly not a children’s movie. At one point Bazil hires a pair of exhibitionists to have sex in an open window to distract a security guard. The guard’s reaction is a bizarre mix of silly and perverse. It was confusing. There are countless scenes like this. Just weird, unfunny head-scratchers. Again, I can’t believe there is an audience for this stuff.
To be fair, I didn’t hate all the characters. The arms-dealing villains are OK, and a few of Bazil’s adopted family members are downright endearing. This was particularly true of Julie Ferrier, the contortionist who ends up being Bazil’s love interest. In terms of actors, Ferrier is the film’s saving grace. Her brand of quirky I actually found enjoyable. Quick, precise movements and a cadence to match. She was usually able to bring out a stoney-smile.
If you’re really, really into unique visuals, Micmacs might be worth a viewing. Although I hold aesthetic in higher esteem than just about everyone I know, and it wasn’t nearly enough for me. Dany Boon is a catastrophe, the plot is slow, and the comedic vibe is off-putting. Moviegoers should expect to spend a considerable amount of time shifting uncomfortably in their seats.