Translating the title of his movie in one of the bonus features on the new Blu-ray release, Jean-Pierre Jeunet states that Micmacs means “shenanigans.” That is a brilliant description of this film which stars Dany Boon as the new guy in a group of misfits who happen to live in a dump. Boon’s character, Bazil, and his new found friends go on a fantastic adventure thwarting evil, having fun, and even finding love.
At the opening of the film we see that as a young child, Bazil’s life is forever altered when his father dies attempting to dismantle a landmine. Cutting to 30 years later, we see an adult Bazil who loves movies and works in a video store. His life changed once again when a stray bullet winds up permanently lodged in his brain.
Out of work, out of a home, and out of options, Bazil is befriended by a group of misfits much like himself who go around scavenging as best they can in the city of Paris. It is during one of these scavenging trips when Bazil comes across the two different arms dealers’ buildings who affected his life so much – the one who built the landmine and the one who made the bullet. A revenge plot formulates in his head to set the leaders of the two companies against one another, and he gets his friends to help on the quest.
It is a wildly fantastic tale, one which has little, if any, grounding in reality. Even Bazil himself has a little with reality as, due to the bullet in his brain, he has a tendency to see things that aren’t there – like a full orchestra when he comes up with his plan to humiliate the arms dealers.
Bazil and his friends are only able to accomplish his task because each of them has a special ability. There is Calculator (Marie-Julie Baup), who can remember any number; Elastic Girl (Julie Ferrier), who can fold her body up; Tiny Pete (Michel Cremades), who makes machines out of junk; Remington (Omar Sy), who was an ethnographer and can impersonate people… poorly; Slammer (Jean-Pierre Marielle), who has been in jail more than he has been out of it; Buster (Dominique Pinon), a human cannonball; and Mama Chow (Yolande Moreau), who looks after the group. Unquestionably, they are a motley crew, and every part of Bazil’s plan is completely ludicrous, but somehow they pull it all together and humiliate the heads of the companies, Francois Marconi (Nicolas Marie) and Nicolas Thibault de Fenouillet (Andre Dussollier).
Jeunet, who has proven himself an inventive, imaginative, brilliantly creative man with films like Amelie does so again here with virtually every scene in the film. He is given a scenario credit on the script which he worked on with Guillaume Laurant and the film succeeds not only because each individual scene is wonderfully witty, but also because the actors are able to carry it off. Bazil’s multi-step plan has each piece more ridiculous than the last, but as the group is family, they’re all game.
It really is a film in which imagination triumphs over everything. Bazil wins because he can think up these crazy schemes (like sticking the Elastic Girl in a suitcase at the airport to help plant drugs on a once-and-would-be-future dictator so that Remington can later impersonate the dictator and his men) and has the people to help him execute them. Jeunet wins (as do we all), because he too can think up these crazy scenarios and have actors execute them.
Perhaps more impressive than the shenanigans that take place on screen is the fact that there is a sentimental soft-side underneath everything that takes place. Bazil and company may be having fun getting even, but they’re getting even for incredibly tragic occurrences and that sense of sadness still manages to permeate the entire film. It is a difficult balance act between the comedy and the tragedy, but Jeunet and his actors handle it all perfectly.
The Blu-ray release comes with several special features including a making-of piece, a short look at the different steps used to create some of the animations in the film, and a director’s commentary (Jeunet speaks in English for it). There is also an interesting Q&A piece with Jeunet and Ferrier. In both the commentary track and the Q&A, Jeunet proves himself to be just as witty and wonderful as his films would lead you to hope.
Although not a massive blockbuster film, Micmacs still has been given a beautiful Blu-ray treatment for this release. You will find excellent levels of detail, good blacks, and rich colors. Particularly good looking is the amount of detail you can see on the various junkyard constructions around the Bazil’s group’s abode. The 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio track is, as you would expect, in French (there are English subtitles), and like the picture is quite good. Don’t expect some sort of massive wall of sound, but the rear channels are used to help situate the viewer, the sound is well balanced, and the bass more than adequate.
People often complain about having to watch a film with subtitles, and unless you speak French, you’re probably going to want the subtitles on here, but everything that takes place is so wonderfully amusing that you will quickly forget that you’re reading the dialogue. If you want to watch a fantasy film with heart and soul, Micmacs is a great choice.