The Extraordinary Adventures Of Adele Blanc-Sec (France 2010)

Rating: ****
Review Date: 2/25/11
Director: Luc Besson
Music: Eric Serra
Cast: Louise Bourgoin

A superbly crafted, but disappointing adventure comedy that was neither what I expected nor what I was hoping for. Based on a French comic book of the same name, the film plays out like a period piece in the vein of "The Mummy" (1999), coupled with the wacky sensibilities of "The Fifth Element" (1997). The story begins with an eccentric scientist bringing a prehistoric pterodactyl back to life, which starts to wreak havoc on Paris. Meanwhile, a globe-trotting reporter named Adele Blanc-Sec (riveting Louise Bourgoin) is raiding tombs in Egypt, looking for a way to cure her crippled sister. All manner of hi-jinks take place, ultimately leading to the resurrection of Ramses II himself. This film has it all: mummies, dinosaurs, magic, science, police procedural, politics, romance, heart breaking family drama, and a cast of extremely odd and curious looking characters.

Unfortunately, the goofy humor and overall silliness of the film spoils what could have been a very exciting adventure story. Luc Besson has a flair for this kind of absurdity and seems to be in his element. Visually, he has pulled out all the stops, and the film is overflowing with style, beauty, color, and texture. The visual effects are quite impressive, the cinematography is outstanding, the sets and costumes are gorgeous, and Eric Serra's powerful music score is wonderful. However, the film would be nothing without the lovely Louise Bourgoin, whose commanding performance and radiant presence bring light and life to every scene she's in. She is a sheer delight to behold. Adele is a fascinating character, and I imagine this is what Lara Croft would have been like had she lived in 1912. Strong, beautiful, intelligent, charming, feisty, adventurous, independent, resourceful, graceful, fiercely sexy, and utterly feminine. It's just a shame that her adventures weren't given a more serious treatment, but I raised the same complaint about "The Fifth Element" as well. And much like "The Fifth Element," it requires you to be in a certain mindset to enjoy it. If you go into it looking for a serious adult-minded adventure film, you will be disapppointed. But if you accept its comic book roots and view it as light-hearted fantasy or children's literature, it can be a wonderful experience.