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As explained by director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the title of his new movie Micmacs means “shenanigans”. With a name like that you might expect some sort of lighthearted, comedy romp but this is, after all, a French movie. The closest they get to lighthearted romp is Jerry Lewis. Instead, imagine if Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton had cooked a preachy, gun control revenge fantasy and you’ll have some idea of what you’re in for should you choose to sit through Micmacs. My hope is that after reading the rest of this review, you won’t.
Micmacs starts with a man shot in the head by a stray bullet. This starts a chain of events which leaves him homeless (though let’s face it, he wasn’t exactly putting much effort into his life beforehand) until he falls in with a group of hobos who’ve formed a colorful hobo family in the middle of a junkyard. Our hero resolves to get revenge for what’s been done to him, but never once does he consider hunting down the jackasses who want careening down his street randomly firing bullets in all directions. Nope, he’s only interested in the guys who manufactured the bullet, because of course they’re the real criminals here. And if, like me, you’re not the sort of person who subscribes to that load of hogwash then there’s no way you’ll find anything to enjoy in this preachy, cartoonish screed.
Jeunet’s ludicrous stance on gun control is just the tip of his naivety iceberg, as he shoves his politics down your throat via characters who can only be described as Looney Tunes mimes. In America the notion of the noble hobo has long been supplanted by the reality of drug addicted homeless whinos who’d stab you for a bottle of Jack Daniels. In France however, it seems the magical homeless fantasy is alive and well, in particular it thrives in the mind of Jeunet. He sics his colorful group of quirky losers on the wealthy of society and they succeed with relative ease while mugging for the camera and engaging in what I assume are supposed to be whimsical hobo pranks. It’s like every American’s worst nightmare of what France must be like, a world in which a contortionist is their version of a superhero and people who sleep on the sidewalk are actually listened to as some sort of fountain of wisdom.
Even if you agree with Jeunet’s personal responsibility free politics the whole thing is impossible to buy into. It contains more than a few visually creative components but the characters are such ridiculous cartoons, the sense of humor so clumsy and outdated, that it’s the kind of thing only the French could love. Great movies transcend culture and barriers and boundaries to speak to all sorts of people. This is not one of those movies. If you’re French or like to pretend you get the French so you can feel superior to your friends, then you’ll love Micmacs. For anyone else, if you find yourself tempted to check out the new movie from the guy who made the fantastic film Amelie, just remember you’re better off giving your movie money to that shifty, smelly, homeless man who sleeps on your street corner. Maybe then he’ll think twice before he sticks you with a shiv on your way home from McDonalds.