Note: This review covers the DVD version of the film, although a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy Combo Pack is available.
A live pterodactyl on the loose in Paris in 1912 gains the attention of adventurer Adele Blanc-Sec (Louise Bourgoin), who hopes it holds the key to a powerful Egyptian mummy that may be able to save her ailing sister. Also stars Mathieu Amalric and Gilles Lellouche.
Directed by Luc Besson
This odd, charming, and thoroughly entertaining French-language adventure finds a kindred spirit in director Luc Besson, who knows just how to film an imaginative, original film. The man who brought us Leon (The Professional) and The Fifth Element brings Jacques Tardi’s graphic novel (or comic book, as I prefer) to life, and it’s a wild cinematic ride.
I had my doubts about the film going in, even with Besson at the helm. This French language film promises a lot in the trailer: action, adventure, mysticism, mummies, and a dinosaur, all set in turn-of-the-20th-century Paris. Empire Magazine called it “Amelie meets Indiana Jones,” which is true, but one could also say it is The Mummy meets Tomb Raider’s girl power. While it does remind one of many other movies, it does manage to strike out with its own strange identity.
The film never takes itself too seriously, which is one of the main reasons why it works. Some of the more absurd elements would be unforgivable in a serious adventure, but here, it gives the film its unique character. The movie is littered with a number of interesting-looking character actors, who each bring something to the story despite their limited screen time. The cinematography is imaginative (as any fan of Besson’s films should be familiar with) and shows a creativity far above America’s generic adventure films.
While the film is very enjoyable, it is not perfect. The tone and pacing are all over the place, and it often gets mired in subplots and supporting characters. Louise Bourgoin certainly looks the part of Adele, but she doesn’t quite have the acting chops to carry the role. As portrayed in the comics, Adele is a feisty, engaging character, but here, Bourgoin’s acting is flat and almost aloof, especially beside many of the larger-than-life supporting characters. Although pretty, she lacks the facial expressions to show the wide range of emotions the character requires, especially when dealing with her ailing twin sister Agathe.
Instead, Gilles Lellouche, who plays the hapless Inspector Caponi, and Jean-Paul Rouve, who plays Justin de-Saint Hubert (the clueless big game hunter), steal the show, with inspired performances that inject some real life into the film. There is one scene involving Hubert, an accidental gun discharge, and an unlucky sheep that had me laughing my head off.
Indeed, it was the unexpected quirkiness of the film that is its strongest asset. It’s a period piece one moment, a dinosaur movie a minute later, and a mummy movie soon after that. It should be a mess, but it’s held together with a wit and sense of humor that only Besson could produce. It’s great fun, and the type of original movie you wish Hollywood would make more often.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
The standard definition DVD exhibits nice detail and solid colors. The CGI blends remarkably well with the rest of the live action, for the most part. Some of the CGI is lacking, but most of it is just as good as what we see in American summer blockbusters. The film includes the original French language soundtrack in Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0, with English subtitles available. An English Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 soundtrack is also included, but I didn’t care for the voiceover acting as much. I prefer the French track, with English subtitles.
A “making of” featurette is included, featuring a number of interviews, including Besson, Bourgoin, and Jacques Tardi, the creator of the comic book. At nearly a half hour long, it provides a nice look at the film’s production, from adapting the comic to shooting the many fantastic sequences. The featurette is completely in French, but subtitles are included.
Four deleted scenes are included, all providing more background into Adele and Agathe’s relationship. The DVD does not allow the viewer to watch all four together; you must select each one separately to view them. A promotional featurette promoting the film’s music by Eric Serra is also included.
THE BOTTOM LINE: BUY IT OR REDBOX IT?
Ratings (1-10 scale)
Overall Score: 7.5
The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec is a surprisingly entertaining film, even if the tone varies greatly. Inventive and visually original, it is a must watch. Because of its quirky character, I would recommend viewing the film first before deciding if it is worth purchasing. It is an acquired taste, but a lot of fun.
Release Date: August 13, 2013
Running time: 107 minutes
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0; French Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0
Special features: “Making Of” featurette, deleted scenes, music featurette
Label: Shout! Factory