There is no denying that French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet has a more than discernable filmmaking style. Whether you like said style or not, it is certainly a recognizable one amongst us cinephiles, hiding there in the dark of the theater. The moment I first laid eyes on the trailer for Micmacs, I had no doubts that it was indeed a Jean-Pierre Jeunet film and therefore, knew (pretty much) exactly what would be coming once I saw the film as a whole. The auteur theory came in loud and clear. For better or for worse, this was going to be a Jean-Pierre Jeunet movie. There is also no denying that Jeunet is himself a diehard cinephile, popping cinematic references and allusions into all of his films. Here it is no different as we start out with our lead protagonist watching a French-dubbed screening of The Big Sleep on his television before the film turns into a loving homage to Chaplin - or was it Tati? Again, the auteur theory bangs on our door as Jeunet thickly (perhaps too much so) lays on his love of cinematic history - or at least one section of said history.
There is also no denying, as anyone with even the proverbial half a brain can attest to after just a few minutes alone with the dreadfully saccharine (and inexplicably celebrated) Amelie nearly a decade ago (the foreign film most beloved by those who don't really like foreign films but want everyone else to think they do!), that Jeunet has the very bad habit of turning his visually interesting style of cinema into a slathered, sugary sweet confectionary of a movie that manages to sabotage anything the director does artistically (and some of it - even in Amelie - is quite a giddy visual romp) with a sideways snarky smile that seems to say "Sure, I can make stunning films, full of everything my cinematic knowledge can muster up, but don't think I'm not going to give each and every one of my audience the severest case of diabetes while I'm at it!". It is this very sad state of affairs that gives one even a deeper disappointment while looking in on the oeuvre of an otherwise loving cinephile-cum-filmmaker. Perhaps he can fool some of the people some of the time, but...well, you know the rest.
Of course, all this critical rhetoric aside, Micmacs is not a bad film. In fact, I can attest to the fact that it is a good film - or at least an enjoyable film. Perhaps the idea of having fun watching it would be a better (and more accurate) statement than it was a good film. Sure it has its moments of Jeunetesque cutesiness (though none ever dipping into the sickening realm of the aforementioned Amelie!) but its loving amalgamated take on Chaplin and Tati (Dany Boon's performance blends the two classic film comedians together as if they were a tragicomic rendition of Samneric from Lord of the Flies) as well as Jeunet's usual visual rompishness make the film something one can surely enjoy - at least in the kind of temporary state one usually enjoys the frivolities of life. The kind of enjoyability one gets from playing with a newborn puppy - it sure is cute and adorable (who the Hell doesn't love a puppy!?) but eventually one realizes they have been slobbered and shed on and must inevitably walk away and clean themselves off. In the end though, the good does manage to outweigh the bad - even if only in the most temporary manner. Jeunet's style is adorable and fun to play with (here acting a bit more Delicatessen than Amelie, though without the macabre nature of the former) but at some point you are going to have to walk away and clean yourself off. [06/21/10]