Directed By Luc Besson
Starring Louise Bourgoin, Gilles Lellouche, Nicolas Giraud and Mathieu Amalric
It’s 1912 and intrepid adventurer/reporter Adele Blanc-Sec is on a grave-robbing expedition to Egypt in hopes of claiming the mummified remains of a pharoah’s personal doctor, intent on reviving him and using his expertise to cure her ailing sister. Meanwhile, the kooky professor she’s relying on to bring her borrowed mummy back to life has accidentally awoken a prehistoric pteradactlyl, which is causing havoc around Paris as dopey detective Capoldi and equally inept hunter Justin de Saint-Hubert attempt to track the beast.
Having misspent much of the last decade at the helm of the lacklustre Arthur & The Invisibles movies, Luc Besson makes a triumphant return with this delightful comic fantasy adventure, which adapts Jacques Tardi’s ’70s comic of the same name. Equal parts Amelie and Indiana Jones, with a dash of Night at the Museum (only, k’now, good), Adele Blanc-Sec wonderfully blends farcical French comedy with gripping old-fashioned, high-stakes adventure.
Whether it’s the intense thrill of seeing her thwart her sinister French nemesis in a wonderfully executed Indiana Jones-style tomb raiding scene, or the immense giggles that come when she uses a variety of less-than-successful disguises (and a pterodactyl) to stage a guillotine-dodging prison break, Miss Blanc-Suc’s escapades are incredibly infectious fun. So much fun that the film loses a little of its spark as it leaves her to dart between subplots and set-ups.
That’s not to say the rest of the film is bad. On the contrary, the Clouseau-esque farce surrounding Inspector Capoldi brings a tonne of laughs thanks to Gilles Lellouche’s wonderfully deadpan performance, and the screwball hijinks are never less than entertaining. But the meandering reach of the narrative sometimes spends a little too much time jumping between characters or setting up dominoes to be nudged in sequels, and feels like it’s losing a focus that’d be better spent on its plucky lead.
Consider it a testament to how bewitching a character Adele Blanc-Sec is and how beautifully the delectable Louise Bourgoin brings her to life. In what should be a star-making turn, former weather girl Bourgoin exhibits a magnetic presence, crackerjack comic timing and is equally adept at injecting emotional heart into the film’s dramatic dalliances. Then there’s Adele Blanc-Sec herself. Stubbornly feistly, unflappably cool and deliciously droll, she’s the most enchanting French heroine since Amélie and should be nipping at Lisbeth Salander’s heels on top ten lists of modern cinema’s most captivating female heroes.
A picturesque, high-energy romp through Paris and parts beyond, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec is a wonderfully whimsical fantasy adventure full of thrills, giggles, pterodactyls and talking mummies. Besson might spend a little too much of the film setting up possible sequels, but after tagging along on Adele Blanc-Sec’s first adventure, you’ll be instantly clambering for more.
The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec is in select UK cinemas now.