So once again we have survived.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec

tn_adeleLuc Besson might be back. For a while there he was doing those ARTHUR movies for kids, then he said he wasn’t gonna direct anymore. To be fair I haven’t watched the ARTHUR movies, because in the U.S. the Weinsteins own them and only released them in a version where the characters are dubbed by Snoop Dogg and Madonna – I’m not joking about that, that’s for real. Besson also directed that black and white movie called ANGEL-A, which I haven’t seen and don’t even know which way to pronounce.

So I probly shouldn’t say Luc Besson is back. I guess it would be more fair to say that I’m back to Luc Besson. Point is he has this one now, based on a Belgian comic book. It came out April 2010 in Belgium and France and has rolled out everywhere from Argentina to United Arab Emirates since then, just not here so I had to get an import. It’s fine, I’ll watch it again if it comes out dubbed by Nicki Minaj or somebody.

mp_adeleThe tone is very light, a family friendly adventure movie, but not too stupid for adults, and with brief sideboob I believe. Besson’s broad humor sometimes turns me off (example: Bruce’s mom on the phone in FIFTH ELEMENT), but here he seems kinda witty, with lots of quick, funny quips. Yes, there is an uptight character who keeps seeing crazy things that make him faint, but that seems appropriate in this live action cartoon type of world where physical features are exaggerated to look like drawings. Lots of elaborate makeup jobs and fake ears. Everyone is big and round or horribly ugly or impossibly gorgeous. It’s maybe kinda what that TIN TIN movie would be like if they did it with cameras and live humans.

At one point I was wondering if the ridiculously gnarled faces and crooked teeth of the Egyptians were a little racist. Then suddenly a villainous French character walked in that made the Egyptians look like Cary Grant by comparison, and I was able to go back to appreciating them in the drawing-come-to-life spirit they were intended.

It was this guy:

still_adele

and I only now figured out that’s who Mathieu Amalric from MUNICH and QUANTUM OF SOLACE plays.

Adèle Blanc-Sec (Louise Bourgoin) is a famous author. Her editor sends her on trips to exotic locales where she has crazy adventures, then comes home and makes up a bunch of unrelated shit for her books. As the movie begins she’s being sent to Peru, but sneaks off to the Great Pyramids instead.

Adèle is kind of like a cross between Indiana Jones and Mary Poppins. She’s a good lookin lady with fancy dresses and giant hats who refuses to have her world limited by the idiots around her or even by the laws of science. Her twin sister Agathe (Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre) is in a coma from having her brain impaled on a hat pin, so she needs to steal a particular Egyptian mummy that she thinks is a doctor to Ramses II and might be able to help. I mean, she’ll have to figure out how to resurrect him from the dead first, but she’ll cross that bridge when she gets to it.

Unfortunately the one guy that might be able to help her with that, a withered old mystic called Professseur Ménard (Jacky Nercessian), is on death row when she gets back from her trip. Ain’t that how it is? You go out of town for a little bit, you come back and find out the buddy you’re really counting on used his telepathic powers to hatch a pterodactyl egg from the museum and then control the beast remotely and the cops found him harboring a dinosaur and decided he was a maniac.

I love the special effects in this movie. They don’t look as “real” as top-of-the-line Hollywood effects, but that’s part of their charm. They have lots of personality. The pterodactyl and later a group of mummies are animated in a slightly herky-jerky style that reminds me of old stop motion animation. I guess the closest Industrial Light and Magic comparison would be the Martians from MARS ATTACKS!

The mummies are great because they’re not based on the usual wrapped-in-bandages type of look, they actually look like mummified human remains come back to life. And they’re animated with very human personalities. In one of the movie’s best scenes Adèle sits and has tea with an animated mummy and tells him the traumatic story of her sister’s accident and why she blames herself for it. And he sits and listens very supportively and comforts her. And he’s a mummy. That asshole from the MUMMY movies could learn a thing or two about manners from this guy.

Another way that Adele is like Mary Poppins is that she pretends to not know her effect on men. There’s a dude so in love with her he delivers poems to her every day, and she just kind of brushes him off but casually tells him that she reads all her mail in the bath tub. I mean maybe that’s an act of charity, a generous donation of masturbation imagery, but it seems more cruel to me.

On the other hand, feigned obliviousness is one of her best qualities. The bowler hat wearing, mustache sporting authority figures all around her are constantly tripping over themselves failing to stop her from doing what she wants to do, and she doesn’t waste time noticing or complaining. One exception is in Egypt when the Egyptians won’t let her into the tomb. She just tells them to come get her when it’s no longer a boy’s club, and waits maybe a minute while they find out how badly they need her expertise.

There’s definitely some AMELIE in here too. If you hate whimsy, there could be a problem. But people who think AMELIE is too cute are comparing it to real life and relationships, so this is kinda different. Even if you’ve had experience with real pterodactyls and this doesn’t match up I’m sure you can enjoy the mummy part as an escapist fantasy, and vice versa.

It’s a fun movie. I’m not sure why it’s been banned in the U.S. The people have a right to know the truth.

nerd note: Her guide or assistant in Egypt is named Aziz – I kept waiting for her to say “Aziz, light!” But I guess there’s not much reward for in-jokes about the Luke Perry part at the beginning of THE FIFTH ELEMENT. (Also I looked it up and this takes place about 2 years before that scene did, so age-wise it can’t be intended as the same character.)

okay I would like to apologize for this trivia. Move along

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Thursday, September 8th, 2011 at 1:58 am and is filed under Comic strips/Super heroes, Fantasy/Swords, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

26 Responses to “The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec”

  1. No, not Nicki Minaj, the heroine must be voiced by Adele in her first crossover star venture, with bonus soundtrack hits of course.
    We Americans had to endure the humiliation of second class world citizenship for once, hearing about how the rest of the world got a shot at Luc Besson’s newest directational effort first, how Bernard Henri-Levy & co. all sneered at our puny superhero movie box office receipts and at the fact that half of all non-porn internet data traffic is Americans on NetFlix & YouTube, while we waited for the popularity of the right pop star to rise, thereby making this movie’s eventual US release a success.

    How did that feel, France, hmm? You feel high & mighty now that you did something that wasn’t USA’s sloppy seconds? Enjoy that shit while it lasts.

    Also, people who dislike AMELIE have no soul.

  2. One of the voice actors in the German version of those MINIMOYS movies was that androgynic 13 year old singer from Tokyo Hotel. So it’s not just an American problem.

  3. ANGEL-A seemed to me like Besson’s attempt to capture some of that Jeunet magic but with none of the heart, vision or demented genius. Jamel Debbouze gave a good performance, but Besson didn’t give him much of a script to work with, and the film never becomes as unmoored as it needed to to sell the concept.

    But then again, I always thought IT’S A WONDER LIFE (which ANGEL-A evokes) is kind of cloying and facile, so maybe I’m not the best person to judge.

  4. Did someone just disrespect It’s A Wonderful Life? Hear that sound? I think an angel just got aids.

  5. This isn’t getting a US release? I saw this earlier this year. Not bad at all.

    Luc Besson had another release in 2010 – PARIS EXPRESS aka Coursier
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1429429/

    It’s got The Haitian from Heroes starring in it. It’s worth checking out as well.

  6. I’d like to see a version of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE where Mr. Majestyk’s guardian angel, Detective John Oldboy, shows Majestyk all the lives he’s touched with his recommendations of films by Bolo Yeung and Brad Dourif, and THE GREAT TEXAS DYNAMITE CHASE. At the end he’ll show him a future where Batman is rebooted where the character’s voice doesn’t sound like Jack Bauer’s audition tape for a job at a 1-800 sex phone line.

  7. Cn’t wait for that film Besson’s doing with Michelle Yeoh. That’s bound to have some crazy action in it.

  8. I’m actually touched, Jareth. But don’t worry about me. I’ve been taking refuge in Asian action movies, which still kick ass in ways Americans won’t discover for decades yet. And the eighties continue to be a treasure trove of forgotten gems. So me and movies are still going steady. But I would very much like to have a cinematic type experience that blasts my balls through the back of the theater. Right now my balls are just kind of rolling around on the floor of the theater, where they’re always underfoot and they’re always getting sticky.

    Please, Hollywood. Won’t someone think of the balls?

  9. @Felix: is COURSIER actually good? I mean, it was directed by a guy who’s only made crappy TV shows, and the main character is played by Michaël Youn, who usually stars in the worst, stupidest comedies you could imagine (his only good film is the one he directed, FATAL).

  10. is this eventually gonna come out in the US? I’ve been wanting to see it for a while, it sounds right up my alley

    and you actually see Adele’s nipples somewhat, it’s not just sideboob, maybe that’s why it’s been banned here, where we like to prevent our children from seeing a nude female until they’re the ripe old age of 18, a family friendly movie with a brief shot of breasts? madness! utter madness! society would collapse overnight!

  11. Between this and the upcoming Tintin movie, we’re really living in a filmed-adaptation-of-Belgian-comics renaissance right now.

  12. I am looking forward to this one. I am fan of this particular stripe of whimsey. Good, clean fun, what?

  13. Toxic;

    COURSIER really isn’t that bad. I saw it early this year and its a bit like TAXI 2 and 3 (Without Daniel’s car). It’s worth a look if you have the time.

  14. wabalicious monkeynuts

    September 8th, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    ANGEL-A was great, but i wasn’t keen on this at all. Adele Blanc-Sec herself was very nice, and the mummies were really well done, but the film has very little in terms of plot, and seems like it goes on for years. If you like pterodactyls shitting on people, you might get a kick out of it. There’s a few laughs, but it’s not really vintage Besson.

  15. I’ve never heard of this one, but it sounds fairly interesting. The “Amelie” comparison piques my interest. Didn’t “Rocketeer” do the whole “cartoon villain” thing and make it work? Is this as good in that respect as that film was?

  16. Adèle is the only Besson movie I liked since Leon. The comic is worth reading, too: much darker humor, no talking mummies.

  17. Rudolf Klein-Rogge

    September 23rd, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    I read this review when you posted it, saw the movie earlier this evening, noticed Mathieu Amalric’s name during the opening titles, and only now – re-reading your review – do I manage to put two and two together. It never crossed my mind that he playing him. Kudos to Besson and Amalric I guess…

  18. on you’re side note re: Aziz. She does say it, “More light, Aziz” lol

  19. She does say it? Oh, I missed it then. Glad to hear it.

  20. I had this sitting on my DVD shelf for at least 5 or 6 years and tonight decided to ramdomly give it a shit, not knowing what exactly I was in for. The first 20 or so minutes promise some kind of funny Indiana Jones adventure, but mostly less groan worthy than LAST CRUSADE and it took me a while until I realized, that this one wasn’t really about some Diana Jones raiding tombs, but about our heroine dealing with weird supernatural shit and the incompetence of the police and politicians, only because she wanted to safe her sister. And it doesn’t even end in a big action scene or something.

    Anyway, I really enjoyed this one. It’s a unique movie, very entertaining and it’s kind of a shame that nobody seems to remember it anymore.

  21. Okay, what’s up with me, typing “shit” instead of “shot” on here? (Please, no German Scheisse Movie jokes.)

  22. I generally like most of Luc Besson’s movies. LUCY included.

    Looking forward to VALERIAN next year.

    CJ, here’s a little article for you.
    http://clothesonfilm.com/louise-bourgoin-as-adele-blanc-sec-feathers-in-her-hat/21377/

  23. I never even heard of this one, but everything about it seems really, really cool!

  24. Felix, I don’t know why you think this is article would be interesting to me, but it actually was. Thanks for that.

  25. No problem. Thought it gave some insights into Adele’s character.

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