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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec review: gloriously goofy

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec green light Louise Bourgoin

This is what comic-book movies look like when they’re not blown up into $200 million monstrosities: friendly and eldritch and kinda cosy even in the middle of outrageous escapades.
I’m “biast” (pro): oo, a female adventurer!

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

I have not read the source material

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

It’s a shame this gloriously goofy French flick, from 2011, didn’t get a big-screen release in North America, because it is one of those juicy, chewy, pulpy adventures that is best appreciated flickering in the dark. Then again: the dreaded subtitles. And the hero is a chick, which — if we’re to believe Hollywood — no one wants to see. See it anyway, even if you must resort to the small screen now that it has, at least, gotten a DVD/blu-ray release in the U.S. You won’t be sorry.

Based on the comic books by Jacques Tardi [Amazon U.S.] [Amazon Canada] [Amazon U.K.] and adapted and directed by Luc Besson (Taken), this is what comic-book movies look like when they’re not blown up into $200 million monstrosities: friendly and eldritch and kinda cosy even in the middle of outrageous escapades. The year is 1911, and lady journalist and adventurer Adèle Blanc-Sec (the gorgeous Louise Bourgoin) is somewhere in an Arabian desert, breaking into a dusty tomb. There’s a treasure map, bien sûr, and unsavory companions who cannot be trusted because they’re after gold while all she seeks is knowledge. (It’s very Raiders of the Lost Ark, in the best way.) There’s something she needs — ancient wisdom; magic even — to help her beloved sister, who is in a bad way in a way that is hilarious in its ridiculous wrongness. Perhaps Patmosis, physician to pharaoh Ramses II, might have discovered the something she needs. She drags his mummy back to Paris… where her friend Professor Espérandieu (Jacky Nercessian) has already tested his “bringing the dead back to life” weird-science on a museum-exhibit pterodactyl egg. Which has hatched and is now terrorizing the city.

You know, the usual sort of Tuesday for a lady journalist and adventurer.

Bourgoin is an absolute delight as a woman surrounded by incompetents — the aforementioned unsavory companions, bumbling cops, and other guys who think their guyness automatically bestows awesomeness — and besotted would-be suitors who are not worthy of her, though they might be worthy of tagging along to assist her as things get even weirder. And Besson gets the tone exactly right throughout. This genre-bending pulp stew would collapse into a steaming pile of its own absurdity with just a single wrong note. It never does, and remains wonderfully silly fun.

Watch The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec online using LOVEFiLM‘s streaming service.

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The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec (2011)
US/Can release: direct to DVD
UK/Ire release: Apr 22 2011

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated P2 (contains pulpy popcorn adventure)
MPAA: rated PG for some violence, language, brief sensuality and rude humor
BBFC: rated 12 (contains brief moderate nudity)

viewed at home on a small screen

more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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