THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"THE EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURES OF ADELE BLANC-SEC"
American moviegoers know French filmmaker Luc Besson from sleek, high-octane action pictures like The Fifth Element and The Professional, as well as from his screenplays for Taken and The Transporter. However, in 2010, Besson made a very different kind of movie in his homeland. The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec, based on the popular French comic book series by Jaques Tardi, is an old-fashioned adventure in the spirit of the Indiana Jones or Tintin tales. The film is coming to our shores on DVD and Blu-Ray August 13, courtesy of Shout! Factory.
Set in 1912, the movie stars Loiuse Bourgoin as the title character, a young reporter who raids an Egyptian tomb in search of the mummified doctor who may be able to bring her brain-dead sister back to full health. Her plan is to “borrow” the mummy and take him to an elderly professor who has figured out how to psychically revive long-deceased beings. Unfortunately for her, he has demonstrated this ability by resuscitating a pterodactyl egg, which subsequently hatches, setting the prehistoric creature loose in the skies of France. In order to save her sister, Adele first has to help contain the panic the pterodactyl is creating. And she must do this while being chased by her arch nemesis, Dieuleveult (Mathieu Amalric).
The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec hits the right note of mixing action with a self-knowing sense of humor. The plot is silly, and the film takes opportunities to run with that quality, just to let you know it's not taking itself too seriously. A scene in which Adele tries to ride the pterodactyl is a fine example of this, as is the wry portrayal of the reawakened – and unwrapped – mummy, who awakens from centuries of sleep just as cheery and curious as can be. At the same time, the action scenes are creatively conceived and effectively staged, especially Adele's escape from the mummy's tomb. Besson shoots these sequences with great style, making sure that Adele uses objects at her disposal to her advantage. The movie consequently has a nice, old-fashioned feel; it is reminiscent of classic, free-wheeling screen adventures while still taking advantage of modern special effects wizardry.
There's also a lot of humor in the characterizations. While Adele is an out-and-out heroine, most of the people she comes into contact with are exaggerated caricatures, especially the politicians and police officers who threaten to foil her plan. This allows for moments of delightfully silly humor. Mathieu Amalric is particularly funny playing the sniveling villain. Imagine the even more sinister brother of Raiders of the Lost Ark's Belloq and you'll get the idea. I like that Adele Blanc-Sec has a lighthearted tone. It's suitable for kids, yet witty enough that adults will be amused by it as well. The film reminds me of a time when adventure movies were fun and not so intent on being as hardcore as possible at every single second.
On the downside, Adele's relationship with her sister feels underdeveloped (some useful flashbacks to their upbringing have been relegated to the deleted scenes section of the DVD). Also, the ending is kind of odd, not so much in that it stops abruptly as in the fact that it suggests something decidedly unpleasant; it's totally at odds with the genially quirky nature of everything else in the film.
By and large, though, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec is visually impressive old-school fun, anchored by a charmingly confident performance from Louise Bourgoin. If you're in the mood for something offbeat, this makes a great evening of entertainment.
( out of four)
The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec will be released on DVD and in a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack on August 13. A 30-minute making-of documentary takes you behind the scenes, showing how the classic French comic book character was brought to life on the big screen. Four short deleted scenes delve further into Adele's relationship with her sister during various stages of their youth, while a music segment looks at the creation of the end credit song, co-sung by Bourgoin.
For more information on this title, please visit the Shout! Factory website.
The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec is rated PG for some violence, language, brief sensuality and rude humor. The running time is 1 hour and 45 minutes.
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