The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec is saved by a star-making performance from Louise Bourgoin. Director Luc Besson searched far and wide for the perfect Adèle and perseverance paid off big time. The role posed a triple challenge to be dramatic, funny and sexy. Bourgoin aces each category.
Besson also had to wait a long time to make the film due to creator Jacques Tardi insisting it should be made by somebody else entirely. Those plans collapsed in the end and Besson again asked Tardi. The French director, possibly the most famous internationally, takes elements from books one and four and meshes them together with his own screenplay. Those expecting an Indiana Jones style adventure might be disappointed but thankfully it’s no Tomb Raider either.
The major issue with Adèle Blanc-Sec stems from its plodding, albeit madcap, narrative. This is a very French production packed with very French humour. Some will take to it and some will not. Sometimes it’s plain not funny. Besson’s tale of mummies, pharaohs, resurrection spells and a pterodactyl let loose in Paris is absurd stuff but the comics' tone just doesn't translate well to the screen. Sometimes the over-the-top zaniness recalls Louis Malle’s Zazie dans le Metro.
The art design, sets and costumes are beautiful recreations of the belle époque. So, too, Besson’s decision to slightly elongate the faces and noses of male characters to capture Tardi’s unique style. Mathieu Almaric, in an extended cameo despite top billing, is unrecognisable. Gilles Lellouche, as Inspector Albert Caponi, fares much better as the forever-hungry detective attempting to sort out the mess wrought by the birth of a dinosaur.
Bourgoin is basically the reason to watch this film. She is fantastic. The prison, in particular, is great fun. Adèle must rescue a professor put behind bars after he is blamed for the dinosaur mess. She does have ulterior motives given she is trying to bring back her own sister who died during a bizarre hairpin/tennis accident. Told you it was wacky stuff.
Adèle dresses in a series of crazy disguises which range from downright sexy to obese prison cook. This is easily the best scene in the whole film. It's a shame the rest doesn't capture this moment.
The extra features focus largely on interviews with its star and director. There’s a making of documentary too. It’s electronic press kit stuff but quite in-depth and packed with lots of information. A commentary from Besson would have been nice, though.
Despite the narrative and tonal weaknesses one hopes for another adventure from Miss Blanc-Sec. There’s something (potentially) great about Miss Bourgoin and this character. Maybe a change of director would help.
The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec is out now on DVD/Blu-ray