Movie review: In 'Micmacs,' a wild ride runs out of gas

By Ann Hornaday
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 11, 2010; WE28

Fate, revenge and imagination at its most extravagant propel "Micmacs," Jean-Pierre Jeunet's whimsical story of a man named Bazil (Dany Boon) who embarks on a labyrinthine mission to destroy two Paris arms manufacturers. After his father is killed in North Africa by a land mine and, later, when he's seriously wounded himself by an errant bullet, Bazil vows revenge on the arms dealers who ruined his life, joining ranks with a ragtag underground community of gleaners, tinkerers and urban castaways.

Infused with an eccentric visual design, a stealthily dynamic camera and a sensibility inspired by Charlie Chaplin, Jacques Tati, Rube Goldberg and Tex Avery, "Micmacs" brings an infectious note of caprice to the old-fashioned caper film, sending Bazil and viewers alike on an increasingly loopy journey through a Paris that is both modern and nostalgically timeless.

There's something infectious, even bracing, about Jeunet's childlike vision (most viewers will recognize him as the man behind the 2001 art-house hit "Amélie"), at least until his love of stylization and cloying sentiment begins to feel irritatingly stifling and self-conscious; he name-checks his own movie several times in background billboards and on video boxes. "Micmacs" ends with an elaborate set piece celebrating illusion at its most seductive, but the movie itself winds up feeling like just that: an exercise in surface tricks and sleight of hand, without much emotion or warmth to give it more meaning.

** R. At area theaters. Contains sexuality and brief violence. In French with English subtitles. 105 minutes.

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