This week’s pick is something that I’ve wanted to see for a long time, just because it seemed so “right up my alley”. The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec is a French film about an intrepid female reporter in the tradition of Nellie Bly in early twentieth century Paris. Adèle is on a quest to cure her twin sister Agathe who fell victim to an unfortunate accident involving a high velocity tennis ball and a hat pin. But before she can save her sister, Adèle is going to have to bust a professor who has discovered how to bring the dead back to life out of prison and solve the problem of the pterosaur that the professor accidentally revived. Also thrown into the mix are a bunch of bumbling policemen, a spectacularly inept big game hunter, the President of France and his dog, and a whole mess of ancient Egyptian mummies taking a sightseeing stroll around Paris at night. Needless to say, this is a very unique movie.
Most people would file this movie under “Steampunk”, but all it shares with that genre is the sensibility. It’s really more of an action comedy with some supernatural elements in the vein of the Mummy franchise (before it really started to suck) and the Hellboy movies. Oh, and one more thing it shares with Steampunk, a seriously awesome heroine. Adèle is smart, resourceful, and takes no crap from anyone; especially the male characters. She’s a reporter only in the sense that she writes books about her adventures, and most of her adventures are centered on curing her sister. And there’s nary a love interest to be seen. Oh there’s a character who’s in love with her, but Adèle has precisely zero interest in him. One thing to point out here is that while the cast is mostly made up of men, they aren’t exactly portrayed in the most flattering light. In fact, most of them are either stupid, or have very little effect on the plot, Andrej being the sole exception to that. Andrej is the guy who’s in love with Adèle, and he helps her find the pterosaur that’s running (or rather, flying) rampant through Paris. But he isn’t really fleshed out as a character aside from his infatuation with Adèle. But the rest are there pretty much as comic side characters, and to provide a foil for Adèle to work off of.
Speaking of comedy, there’s quite a bit of it in this movie. But if you’re not at least a little familiar with the way Europeans do it, you might find yourself a bit lost. There are certain scenes that wouldn’t really land well with an American audience. A few of the bits with the big game hunter and the professor come to mind, as well as the use of heavy make-up on some characters. But a good portion of the comedy works really well, in any language. I particularly liked Adèle’s increasingly desperate use of disguises to get the professor out of the prison. Funny and it showcased Adele’s never say die attitude. There are also some really good bits with the mummies, especially Adèle’s interactions with Rameses. The CG in this movie isn’t particularly good, but then again this is a foreign film being done by people who aren’t Industrial Light and Magic. But it’s still pretty passable.
Overall, this is a really fun movie with a great female lead. And we really don’t get to see many of those. So if you’re looking for a decent action movie with a lot of wit, you really can’t go wrong with The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec.