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Movies: Micmacs * *

Since his breakthrough in the early 90s with the playful black comedy Delicatessen, writer/director Jean-Pierre Jeunet has been successfully peddling his very particular brand of cinematic surrealism.

He tends to mix magic, animation and the microscopic with traditional and often sentimental stories. But at this stage his extremely distinctive style is becoming wearisome, and never more so than in this strange and gimmicky heist movie.

Micmacs a Tire-Larigot, to give the film its full title, begins with the usual sweeping prologue as a French soldier is killed by a landmine in 50s north Africa.

Many years later his son Bazil (Dany Boon) has grown up and is working in a video store when a passing gangster accidentally shoots him and a bullet lodges in his skull. The doctors decide it's too risky to remove it, and so Bazil is left with a foreign object in his head that could kill him at any time.

Looking at his X-rays, Bazil notices the bullet's trademark, and realises it was made by the same company responsible for the landmine that killed his dad.

It becomes his mission in life to expose the company's dirty secrets, and a gang of street friends emerge to help him.

In tone, Micmacs is a bit like one of those awful jokey 60s heist films that often involved the likes of Peter O'Toole, and to this basic formula is added Jeunet's fiddly close-ups and supposedly amusing bits of business involving inanimate objects.

Which would be alright as far as it goes, if we weren't then asked to swallow a po-faced message about the evils of the international arms trade.

It's a mess, and rather full of itself too.

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