Half-way through MicMacs I wanted to walk out of the cinema and by the time the credits rolled, I wished I had. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. The movie was pretty and was beautifully done, the characters were probably interesting but there was no overarching theme to keep them all together.
Danny Boon plays Bazil, our hero for the duration of the film. A land mine killed his father and a stray bullet, lodged in his brain, could cause him sudden death. No surprise perhaps that the protagonist feels much animosity towards the two responsible ammunition companies although I would have been angrier at the people that caused the situation. Bazil is out for revenge and after being rendered homeless by the errant bullet he is adopted by a fun filled motley crew. The second-hand dealers have diverse talents and motivations as exemplified by their names: Remington, Calculator, Buster, Slammer, Elastic Girl, Tiny Pete and Mama Chow.
I found it hard to engage with the movie or the characters’ pursuit. I had little invested in the outcome of their journey and the storyline appeared to provide a weak pretense of a purpose but ultimately was just a weak excuse for getting the people on stage to perform various antics. Few of the antics added to the storyline and little of it was enough to engage me with cliché following cliché and much stolen from other movies.
There’s a scene where a police officer in the airport imitates Robert De Niro’s ‘you talking to me’ moment from Taxi Driver and the reference to American humour is swiftly followed by a caricatured performance, by the ethnographer, that mimicked Eddie Murphy’s scene from Trading Places.
Ethnographers try to get ‘inside’ social worlds and see them ‘through the eyes’ of research subjects in order to understand and explain them in all their richness, complexity and specificity. It’s a fascinating research role to take on but in this movie the ethnographer had no purpose other than to say funny lines and even those were a laughable caricature. Some of the jokes were phonetic ones ‘Rambo’ not Rimbaud’ etc. which may have failed to work well because of the subtitles and I didn’t find them funny.
The film itself looked beautiful and there was one scene where Danny goes foraging for neglected items that was filmed at road level. The next shot is filmed from high above and looking down at him in a dumpster. The scene looked good although I wonder how it aided the story if I was detached enough to notice it rather than be carried away by what it was meant to convey.
Being made to look upwards in a movie is supposed to inspire amazement, a sense of grandness, awe. You watch and feel amazement – you don’t watch and notice that you’re looking up.
The two empires reign, facing each other in opposition (literally – one building on each side of the road), is a theme that runs all the way from Romeo and Juliet’s feuding families to the tedious Lucky Number Slevin. MicMacs had more in common with the latter. There was none of the purpose, the striving, the attachment that I felt with Amelie. I just couldn’t identify with the main character and it may well have been due to the actor who failed to engage me in his journey.
The biggest remnant of the movie was a sense of a stolen hi-jinks from American comedies and sitcoms. I’d give it 3 out of 5.
I saw MicMacs at the Watershed on its last screening 11 March 2010. +44 (0)117 927 5100, Watershed, Work1 Canon’s Road,Harbourside,
Bristol, BS1 5TX United Kingdom, email@example.com