Nicholas Slack

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.

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6 Comments

Filed under Bad Movies

6 responses to “Nicholas Slack

  1. For some reason I thought Europe would be void of that kind of terrible comedy. I guess that makes me feel better about my lot in life. You know, Europeans also have really weird tastes in music too. Like, crazy over the top pop music. Glasgow must be such a mecca of great bands because of the climate/environment. Maybe like Minneapolis?

  2. ar

    so i will probably see this, based on me being really really into unique visuals, jeunet kinda being the french burton on that level. i can’t claim much familiarity with french cinema in general but i’ve seen a handful of his movies and the visual textures and otherwordly bizarreness are enough to keep me engaged.**

    in order of preference:
    1. delicatessen
    1. (tie) city of lost children
    2. amelie
    3. a very long engagement
    i think delicatessen is on netflix watch instantly, and i have city of lost children if you ever wanna borrow (am betting you have seen it).

    ok now that i’ve gone all out, all i really came over to say was didn’t this guy:
    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0684500/
    remind you of ernest p. worrell? like bizarrely elastic in the face?

    ** exception: ‘a very long engagement’. SO FREAKING BORING. also the least stylized of all his movies that i’ve seen. however i don’t really go in for tearjerky relationship dramas, so theres that. plus, i hate love.

    also i find the character of amelie somewhat irritating but am down with that movie overall. if i was a dude i’d probably have a crush on her despite her annoying TWEE-NESS, my GOD, i hate self-conscious-adorable SO MUCH.

    • bighatt

      Re: Ernest P Worrell

      I knew who you were talking about without even clicking on the link. That guy was another character that really bothered me. Not Ernest though. He’s a legend.

      Believe it or not, I’ve never seen any of Jeunet’s other work. Another reason I wanted to see this one. Amelie and City of Lost Children are both movies I’ve wanted to see for a while now. Visuals, baby. I gotta have those visuals. That’s one area where Micmacs actually excelled. It just wasn’t enough.

      Definitely won’t be seeing A Very Long Engagement. You’re the second person to warn me about that one.

      • ar

        city of lost children is the one to go for. amelie is disproportionately well-known. best visuals – micmacs seems somewhere between delicatessen and city of lost children on the visual scale. this one is my #1 visually.

        i kind of don’t apply the same judgements to jeunet characters as i would to other films. they are a flavor (like a wes anderson type deal) that is so specific to his movies that i (mostly) enjoy them even if they (amelie) are annoying (digging parentheses right now) which they are a decent amount of the time. he loves the ernest-looking guy, he’s been in every film i’ve seen.

        ‘a very long engagement’ was (i think? this is a guess as im not a superfan) his attempt at making a ‘normal’ movie. came out kinda boring… like, think ang lee doing the hulk. which, a tangent, but what genius made that decision? because i definitely could have informed you beforehand that it wasn’t gonna come off good.

  3. ar

    p.s. the french do a lot of things well. comedy is not one of them.

    • bighatt

      I certainly like their cuisine.

      But yeah, from what I can tell comedy comes right after fighting germans in the french skill set.

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