“Micmacs” Does Snow White One Better
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Remember that Don Quixote moment in Michael Moore’s award-winning documentary “Bowling for Columbine” when he marched into Wal-Mart to protest they sold bullets? His way of confronting the weapons industry with a movie audience as backup. As a result, the chain-store giant agreed to quit selling ammunition.
In “Micmacs” – the satiric comedy that’s playing at the Tropic Cinema – a hapless hero also takes on an arms manufacturer, this the company that made the gun that left a bullet lodged in his brain.
Bazil (Dany Boon) worked in a video store until he got shot in the head during a freak drive-by shooting. He emerges from the hospital penniless and homeless, eventually taken in by a group of junk scavengers. These misfits each have diverse talents in addition to strange monikers: Slammer, Remington, Calculator, Buster, Elastic Girl, Tiny Pete, and Mama Chow. They live in a cave stashed with their pickings. Bazil quickly fits in, helping them turn their scrapheap into a cozy home filled with ingenious devices and junk sculptures.
One day he passes the headquarters of the weapons manufacturer that caused his misfortune. Hmm. So with a little help from his wacky new friends he concocts a plan of revenge on this heartless industrial giant that’s responsible for some much death and injury.
Note that the film’s French title is “Micmacs à tire-larigot,” which translate as “Non-Stop Shenanigans.” That should give you a clue of what to expect.
Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet (he gave us the delightful “Amelie”) says this story about a hero with a bullet in his brain has, ahem, “been rattling around in my head for a long time now.”
As he tells it: “When we were editing ‘The City of Lost Children’ in Saint-Cloud, next to the Dassault factories, we often went to a restaurant where the Dassault engineers went to lunch, too. They were very straight-laced men, in suit and tie, with nice looking faces, but I couldn’t help thinking they were creating and manufacturing incredible weapons to destroy and kill other human beings on the planet. It didn’t seem to bother them very much. I was upset and shocked by that.”
So he hatched the idea for this film about a gang of scavengers who join forces against those businessmen of death. “At the same time, I didn’t want to make an intellectual piece,” he explains. “I wanted to make a comedy. And what could be more different from arms manufacturers than junkyard dealers?”
Bazil’s ragtag group represent “people who are unique, marginal, a little naïve, but each of them has a character trait, something distinctive that serves the story, that helps move the plot forward.”
Jeunet cites “Toy Story” and “Mission Impossible” as two big influences on his film. But truth is, this grim little fable is more akin to “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”
Instead of Sneezy, Grumpy, Happy, et al. who go off to dig in a mine every day, we have these junkyard scavengers who live in a cave. “As a matter of fact,” admits Jeunet, “their names are descriptive, like the dwarfs’ names: Mama Chow because she cooks, Slammer because he just got out of prison, Elastic Girl because she really bends and stretches like rubber, Buster because he's all bust and broken up, Remington because he types on a typewriter, Calculator because she instinctively calculates everything. Only Tiny Pete has the name of a Naïve artist I like a lot.”
He adds, “Once we had defined the characters, we just searched for ways their characteristics could help the story development, the logistics of revenge and the plot twists and turning points.” Next thing you know, hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work we go – to topple an arms manufacturer. At least on film.
[from Solares Hill]