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'Micmacs' has heart

WHATEVER "Micmacs" are supposed to be, Jean-Pierre Jeunet certainly has made the definitive film about them.

The French director, whose films include "Amelie" and "Delicatessen," combines the spirit and visual flair of those fantasies for a frivolous, featherweight yet fun concoction about lovable misfits messing with big, bad weapons manufacturers.

The title "Micmacs" somehow fits the ragamuffin characters, their improvised schemes and the found-object nature of their lives.

Like a grown-up gang of Little Rascals, with shades of Charles Chaplin's Little Tramp and Buster Keaton's wild antics, Jeunet's ensemble romps through clever stunts and gimmickry to carry out their low-rent "Mission: Impossible" stratagems.

Comedian and filmmaker Dany Boon stars as Bazil (pictured right), a gentle soul with a heart-wrenching history. As a boy, his father died in a mine explosion in the desert. As a grown bystander to a shoot-out, Bazil takes a bullet to the head, the slug lodging in his brain, leaving him able to function normally but facing the prospect of sudden death at any moment.

Logos on the mine shrapnel and a bullet shell lead Bazil to the two weapons manufacturers he deems responsible for his misfortunes. So Bazil wages his own private war on the companies and their despicable bosses, played with blustery bravado by Andre Dussollier and Nicolas Marie.

Bazil finds allies in a band of scroungers and gatherers living in an elaborate subterranean dwelling made of scrap in a Paris junkyard.

Like Snow White's dwarf friends (or any good comic book tale of mutant superheroes, which this bunch definitely are not), each of Bazil's chums bring a special talent to the table.

Slammer (Jean-Pierre Marielle) is the patriarch, who survived a guillotine execution, while Mama Chow (Yolande Moreau) is the mother hen, who lost her two little girls at a mirrored funhouse and has adopted her new family of oddballs in their stead.

Buster (Dominique Pinon) is a human cannonball, while Remington (Omar Sy) is a maniacal keeper of lists and inventories. Calculator (Marie-Julie Baup) can measure and quantify anything, while Tiny Pete (Michel Cremades) crafts fabulous moving sculptures and contraptions from the junk the others collect.

And Elastic Girl (Julie Ferrier) is a "sensitive soul in a flexible body," able to twist herself like putty, (with contortionist Julia Gunthel doubling for her in the movie's bendy portions).

It's a sweet little story filled with charming characters, though even French audiences had little interest when "Micmacs" played on Jeunet's home turf, so the film's appeal to American audiences is questionable.

Still, "Micmacs" has a big heart and a playful visual style. It's a nice palate cleanser among all the computer-generated action of Hollywood's summer blockbusters.


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