20,000 leagues over the top

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews -

WHIMSY ahoy!

Adèle Blanc-Sec (the heart­stop­pingly beau­ti­ful Louise Bour­goin) is in Egypt on a turn-ofthe-cen­tury quest to pick up a sar­coph­a­gus when she en­coun­ters a fear­some band of lo­cal swarthy stereo­types and cut-throats. Then Adèle busts some se­ri­ous In­di­ana Jones moves to evade the clutches of an evil ri­val (Mathieu Amal­ric). Then she re­turns to Paris, where a sci­en­tist who has the power to heal her co­matose sis­ter has ac­ci­den­tally un­leashed a ptero­dactyl. Then some bum­bling gen­darmes and a hunter try to take the Tri­as­sic birdie down.

Then a whole bunch of other ex­haust­ing stuff hap­pens.

Ex­pect sub­plots, di­ver­sions, mous­tache twirling, his­tor­i­cal con­vo­lu­tions and dancing CGI mum­mies. If you’ve ever won­dered what Night at the Mu­seum would look like with a top­less French lady where Ben Stiller ought to be, then pon­der no more. Les aven­tures ex­traor­di­naires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec, as the orig­i­nal ti­tle has it, is a quirky tribute to Jac­ques Tardi’s racy Franco-Bel­gian comic book ad­ven­turess. Adèle, in turn, is a saucy tribute to Jules Verne.

It’s French. It’s très, très French. It’s beauçoup trop French. In­deed, from an an­glo­phone per­spec­tive, much of Luc Bes­son’s out­landishly Gal­lic film adap­ta­tion en­gen­ders the same sen­sa­tion as watch­ing a par­tic­u­larly left-field mid-1980s Euro­vi­sion broad­cast. To stand back and ad­mire its all-bets-are-off, quasi-steam­punk silli­ness is to ask, “How did we end up on the same con­ti­nent as these peo­ple?” or “How come they put wine and breasts in their kid’s movies?”

No­body could say it was un­event­ful. Bes­son, ever the vis­ual stylist, is more than ca­pa­ble of mak­ing his ¤30 mil­lion bud­get stretch as far as $150 mil­lion of your Hol­ly­wood dol­lars.

Still, is there an au­di­ence for this pe­cu­liar crea­ture fea­ture be­yond l’Hexagone? The phrase “Hey kids, who wants to go see this pre-war­based farce with sub­ti­tles?” sounds more like an unan­swer­able en­quiry used for Bud­dhist med­i­ta­tion than a pre­lude to a fam­ily out­ing.

Raiders of a lost art: Mathieu Amal­ric and Louise Bour­goin in Adèle Blanc-Sec

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