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by Peter Knegt
May 26, 2010 3:00 AM
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Big Screen | Jeunet's "Micmacs" Hits America

A scene from Jean-Pierre Jeunet's "Micmacs."

With "Sex and the City 2" continuing summer 2010's now month-long tradition of Hollywood films sucking, what better weekend to turn your summer filmgoing over to the art house? Though with films like "George A. Romero's Survival of the Dead" and "Agora" getting similarly horrific critical responses, perhaps it's just as bad on the other side. There is one arguable glimmer of cinematic hope this weekend though, care of the divisive magical realism of Gallic director Jean-Pierre Jeunet ("Amelie," "A Very Long Engagement"). His "Micmacs," a comic satire on the arms race, premiered at last year's Toronto International Film Festival and is being released this Friday through Sony Pictures Classics.

"Micmacs" has a "B-" average on criticWIRE, with grades ranging from quite a few "A" level shout outs (including folks from Variety and The Los Angeles Times) to an "F" from Marie Claire's Caryn James. One of the film's less severe detractors, LA Weekly's Karina Longworth (then reviewing the film for indieWIRE during the Toronto fest), tells it like it is:

"Anyone who has been so touched by a Jeunet film in the past will probably find it impossible to resist “Micmacs,” in which Jeunet applies his patented magical realism to a soft satire on weapons proliferation and contemporary cultural warfare. For Jeunet’s haters, this film will be torture."

Judging from reviews across the internet, more folks seem to be in the "touched" camp versus the "tortured" one.

"Turning the volume of his slapstick surreality down from 11 to 10, Gallic auteur Jean-Pierre Jeunet hits the sweet spot with 'Micmacs,'" Rob Nelson wrote for Variety. "The wacky tale of a brain-injured videostore clerk who brings down a pair of Parisian arms dealers with the help of some highly creative collectors of second-hand goods, 'Micmacs' welds Jeunet's hyperactive imagination to the simpler structures of silent comedy and '40s-era studio capers, resulting in the director's most accessible work yet."

Reel Views' James Berardinelli, meanwhile, calls the film "an inventive romp punctuated by the kind of quirkiness Jeunet has brought to all his films," while The Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt says the film "harkens back to silent movies."

The San Francisco Chronicle's David Germain is perhaps the most charmed, writing that the film has "a big heart and a playful visual style. It's a nice palate cleanser among all the computer-generated action of Hollywood's summer blockbusters."

Among those in the "tortured camp" is Slant's Nick Schager, who writes:

"Inundated with self-satisfied gizmos, faux-endearing clowns, and more rubbery-faced overacting than even a Looney Tunes episode could withstand, it's a film that can only affect an atmosphere of amour, divorced as it is from any sense of honest feeling."

Time Out New York's Joshua Rothkopf feels similarly, writing that the "sequences in 'Micmacs' are contorted too: impressive and bendy and aggressively shallow."

It's up to you to decide what "Micmacs" camp you might belong to, but even if you suspect its the latter, you can pretty much guarantee Jeunet has more to offer cinematically than "Sex and the City 2" and "The Prince of Persia" combined - even if it just irks you in the end.

Check out links to each film's indieWIRE page as well as other films opening this weekend, plus recent theatrical releases below. They include synopses, trailers, and a variety of criticWIRE grades and links to reviews.

iW Film Calendar & criticWIRE:
criticWIRE | Opening this week | Opening this month | All Films A - Z

criticWIRE: Films Opening This Week

Micmacs (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B-

George A. Romero's Survival of the Dead (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: C

Agora (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: C-

criticWIRE: Films Currently In Theaters

Exit Through The Gift Shop (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: A-

The Oath (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: A-

Women Without Men (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

Please Give (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

Father of My Children (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

Best Worst Movie (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

Looking For Eric (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

Daddy Longlegs (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

John Rabe (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

Mother and Child (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

Babies (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B-

Two In The Wave (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B-

The Human Centipede (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B-

Solitary Man (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: C+

Holy Rollers (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: C+

Trash Humpers (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: C+

Perrier's Bounty (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: C+

Peter Knegt is indieWIRE's Associate Editor. Follow him on Twitter and on his blog.

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