By their nature, revenge films are dark, violent, and depressing. The characters are unlikable and flawed, and things rarely end happily for anyone involved. I love the formula of revenge movies—they are my favorite type of film (which probably speaks volumes about me that I’ll be figuring out over years of therapy). But do they always have to follow this blueprint? One would think so, but apparently this is not the case. Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie, The City of Lost Children) has set out to manufacture a revenge movie that is, in nearly every way, utterly opposite to preconceived notions of the revenge film. It turns the idea on its head, in the most delightful way possible.
Bazil (Danny Boon) is satisfied in his role as clerk at a local film rental store, though traumatized at a young age at the death of his father thanks to a landmine in Africa. During one quiet night, Bazil’s normal lazy film-viewing is interrupted by a car chase outside the store, culminating in a handgun dropping to the ground, going off and sending a bullet straight into Bazil’s head. With the flip of a coin, the doctors decide not to operate. Bazil is released from the hospital, living day to day with his job and home lost, and the possibility of the bullet in his brain ending his life at any moment. One day, Bazil is taken by an ex-convict to a landfill-dwelling family that use junk and trash to create unique and useful contraptions. The quirky family quickly accepts Bazil as one of their own.
While exploring the city, Bazil discovers that the manufacturer of the bullet in his head, Nicolas Thibault de Fenouillet (Andre Dussollier) lives directly across the street from the rival arms dealer Francois Marconi (Nicolas Marie), the man responsible for the landmine that took the life of Bazil’s father. Bazil is struck with the idea of taking both men down. With the assistance of his new family, Bazil enacts a series of pranks and elaborate operations that pit the two arms dealers against each other by convincing each man that every pratfall was the brainchild of his rival.
This movie is incorrigibly cheery. While it starts with a somber tone with the death of Bazil’s father and makes it clear that Bazil could die, it quickly cuts loose and delivers a wonderful and frequently funny tale. The plot to take down Thibault de Fenouillet and Marconi is a hugely elaborate scheme that would make DannyOcean green with envy. The family enacts increasingly absurd scenarios, convincing each villain that the other was responsible for the progressively more insane pranks. Seeing the evil men steadily decline into reckless fury is incredibly satisfying.
The characters are universally lovable, from the goofy human cannonball Fracasse, to the largely silent and inhumanly strong Petit Pierre, to contortionist La Mome Caoutchouc. The latter forms the basis for a love story with Bazil, and they evolve from childlike veiled affection to cutesy love. What makes these characters work so well are the archetypal profiles hiding realistic personalities. The family also shares remarkable chemistry, and they and Bazil bounce off of each other with effortless energy.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet is firing on all cylinders here, delivering the wonderful visual style that he is known for and injecting massive amounts of energy and joy to the proceedings. It is his lively editing and visual inventiveness that keeps the film moving forward, from zany plot turns to smaller visual touches, such as a rotating security camera performing a double-take when it sees Bazil. It’s lovably energetic and impossible to look away from.
The soundtrack is one of the most inventive pieces I’ve ever heard for a film. It cleverly blends contemporary French music with sound effects made from household objects being played, struck or smashed. The result is a sound that feels organic to the family, and to the feel of the film; it’s irresistible. I had one of the songs set as my ringtone for over a year.
Micmacs is contagiously delightful, visually inventive, and endlessly fun. Everything about it is unique and wonderful, and the characters are as lovable as they come. I had a smile glued to my face for the entirety of the movie, and was left with the warm fuzzies for a long time after. It’s hard to even recall bits from the film without grinning, and re-experiencing the movie feels fresh every time. This is a feel-good film of the highest caliber.
Take a Drink: every time Bazil gets hit in the head, by either himself or someone else.
Take a Drink: whenever someone makes a silly face.
Do a Shot: whenever one of the villains throws a tantrum.
Take a Drink: any time someone yells or sings.