Micmacs Celebrates The Art Of Getting Even 

A sad sack Parisian is working late one night when he hears a gun battle near his workplace. He steps outside to see the commotion, and he's accidentally shot in the head by a stray bullet. And so begins one of the most enchanting movies of 2010.

Micmacs is the handiwork of director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, both revered (Amelie) and cursed (Alien Insurrection) by cinephiles. Let's put this one clearly in the Amelie camp. As a matter of fact, it would serve as a nice companion piece. Micmacs is lovely, heartfelt and above all, joyful. It takes us deep into the souls of the dispossessed and even examines war profiteering--but it never fails to entertain.

The full French title of this film is Micmacs a Tire-Larigot, which roughly translates to "Loads of Dodgy Dealings," or "Nonstop Shenanigans." Hmmm. It tells you everything and reveals nothing. A simple synopsis of the plot might make you scratch your head and think twice about whether it warrants your entertainment dollar. But here goes.

Before the opening titles roll, Bazil (Dany Boon) is orphaned when his father is killed by a landmine. Years later, Bazil is shot by a stray bullet that lodges in his skull without killing him. These separate acts of violence inspire him to wreak revenge on the weapons manufacturers responsible for taking a piece of his childhood and a piece of his brain. But the movie soars when Bazil is adopted by a wonderful menagerie of characters living in an underworld kingdom carved deep into an elaborate junkyard. (It wasn't until many hours after watching the film that the concept of "salvage" as both physical and spiritual was realized.) The collection of characters is unforgettable and includes a human cannonball, a contortionist, a mechanical puppeteer, a math genius and many more. Their inspired episodes of revenge are gleeful, and Micmacs quickly becomes the most imaginative caper movie in recent memory.

Special credit to cinematographer Tetsuo Nagata for his use of so much color. And extra kudos for his use of atmospheric lighting to illuminate the cast in soft bronze gels.

Micmacs won't solve any of the world's problems, but neither is it a simple funhouse. Whimsy is a rare cinematic treat, and it's celebrated here. There are many motion pictures vying for your laughter and admiration this summer, but you may want to save a piece of your heart for Micmacs. Its humor is shaped through an exquisite understanding of the tragic sense of life.

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