20,000 leagues over the top
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