How much Jeunet is too much Jeunet? MicMacs answered that question for me most definitively. Jean-Pierre Jeunet at his most Jeunetiest, MicMacs is a hyperactive Rube Goldbergian bit of whimsical fluff about… the horrors of land mines. When a mild-mannered video store clerk gets a stray bullet in his head he opts to take a unique form of revenge – going after the company that made the bullet. Along the way he falls in with a veritable circus sideshow of weirdos, living in a repurposed junk pile. Together they take the long way around to giving the execs their comeuppance.
It’s all so overwhelming. MicMacs is a movie turned up to 12, an endless barrage of rusty metal and wacky contraptions, filled with twee characters living saccharine oddball lives. There’s not a moment in MicMacs that feels real, and I don’t mean that in a ‘I don’t believe that happened!’ sense but in a ‘None of these people feel like anything but quirk conglomerations.’ It’s false, trite, and ultimately boring.
There will be many who disagree with me. Jeunet fully cracked out is what they’ve been waiting for. This is a film that’s all about the look, and for many folks that’s what they want. But it was almost impossible for me to sit through, especially because Jeunet’s style feels so cliched here. It’s everything you would expect, with all of the contraptions and pipes and dirt in just the right places. It’s the opposite of the liveliness of a film like The City of Lost Children or Amelie - everything feels plastic and placed and perfectly designed. There’s no messiness to this mess, and the art direction dies like overproduced punk rock.
As for the characters, there’s not much to say as there isn’t much to them. There are quirks and deformities and ‘delightful’ oddities that allow them to stage elaborate heists and scams. But that’s about it; no one reads as having anything deeper going on beyond some occasionally trotted out cheap pathos. And that cheap pathos truly undermines the message that Jeunet is trying to send by couching it in emotional falseness and facile cheesiness. I don’t know that a movie about the horrors of landmines and arms dealers needs to be drenched in misery, but the sugar pop happy-go-lucky vibe of MicMacs just makes those horrors seem unpleasant and give you the urge to not even engage them.
For those looking for a concentrated, high-fructose corn syrup, low brain-power version of a Jean-Pierre Jeunet movie, MicMacs will fit the bill. For everybody else it’s an insufferable, stupid and irritating disaster.
2 out of 10