The French, according to director Jean-Pierre Jeunet anyway, don’t serve their vengeance up cold so much as Jerry Lewis-style. After a landmine kills his father and a stray bullet in the brain leaves him homeless and unemployed (and he discovers the manufactures of both are conveniently located across the street from one another), Bazil (Boon) sets out to get revenge via wacky antics and homemade gadgetry. T Micmacs is a truncation of the film’s original French title Micmacs à tire-larigot, which, according to Wikipedia (the uncultured swine’s source for all things Francophone) translates to “nonstop shenanigans” — a weird title for a film about a man getting even with arms dealers, but definitely fitting. Micmacs the latest film by Amelie and City of Lost Children, auteur Jeunet ain’t exactly Straw Dogs.
Helping Bazil on his quest is his new adopted family, a group of outcasts with goofy nicknames that serve as on-the-nose character descriptors — ex-con Slammer (Marielle), contortionist Elastic Girl (Ferrier), et al — who live together in a secret fortress hidden inside a junkyard. If this is sounding like Goonies with a pencil moustache, you’re not far off. The plan they enact to take the arms dealers down by pitting them against each other, plays out like it was drawn up by Rube Goldberg on a sugar rush.
Human cannonballs, a jar full of hornets, and a live sex show are all involved, but Micmacs does once or twice transcend its wackiness in an attempt to discuss the real world consequences wrought by warmongers with brief references to and, at one point, photographs of the dead and dismembered children, husbands, and wives in Kosovo, Somalia, etc. This leads to an incredibly uneven tone at times, but the point seems to be that Bazil and co. don’t have to fight violence with more misery and death because they’ve got the imagination to bring a banana-cream pie to a gunfight. Visualizing world peace is great and all, but we might need a few circus performers and a sex worker to make it so.