Having had to abandon his attempts to bring Life Of Pi to the screen, keen-eyed director Jean-Pierre Jeunet returns to the surreal, meticulous whimsy of Delicatessen, Amélie and The City Of Lost Children with a quirky revenge yarn that takes glancing potshots at the international arms trade.
French comic Dany Boon, in a role originally written for Jamel Debbouze, brings a goofy physicality to Bazil, a video store clerk who, having lost his dad to a desert landmine and part of his brain to a stray bullet, decides to make the companies that manufactured them pay.
He does so with the aid of an odd group of scavengers who live beneath a scrapheap and whose individual skills – ballistics, linguistics, calculations and contortionism – each play a part in a Mission: Impossible-style action against an evil CEO (André Dussollier) and his rival (Nicolas Marié).
Intricately designed and endlessly creative, Micmacs is as lovingly crafted as one of the automated sculptures Tiny Pete (Michel Crémadès) fashions out of the detritus cluttering the subterranean home he shares with his fellow misfits.
There comes a point, though, when the wealth of detail becomes overwhelming. There is so much to look at in every frame you don’t know where to start, while each outlandish stratagem hatched merely serves to cancel out the one that went before.
Nods to Tex Avery, The Big Sleep and Sergio Leone will certainly appeal to film buffs, while Boon’s expressive, largely wordless performance tips a chapeau to Chaplin, Keaton and many other silent clowns. Yet for all the marvellous sight gags, agile photography and spirited slapstick, you end up wishing that Jeunet had learned how to restrain a little of his natural exuberance in the six years since A Very Long Engagement.
Watching Micmacs is like spending a day with a delightful but hyperactive child – endearing yet fatiguing.
Fresh yet familiar, with such elaborate stylisation you’ll need the DVD to take it in, Micmacs finds Jeunet back in his wheelhouse. It won’t win new fans, maybe, but converts will love every frame.