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The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 11, 2021

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec


Starring Louise Bourgoin, Mathieu Amalric, Gilles Lellouche, Jean-Paul Rouve, Jacky Nercessian, Philippe Nahon, Nicolas Giraud, Laure de Clermont, Gérard Chaillou, Serge Bagdassarian and Claire Pérot.

Screenplay by Luc Besson.

Directed by Luc Besson.

Distributed by Shout! Factory.  107 minutes.  Rated PG.

The box of this French film has a quote from Empire magazine which suggests that The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec is the equivalent of “Amelie meets Indiana Jones.”

To a certain extent, this is an intriguing comparison, and one with a germ of truth to it.  Adèle Blanc-Sec does its best to mix the quirky, pixified Gallic charm of Audrey Tautou’s movie with the light, historic, action-packed cliffhanger of the Jones films.

Sadly, it doesn’t quite do a good enough job of approximating either.

Based on a series of popular and acclaimed graphic novels from France in the 1970s, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec has lots of interesting ideas, set pieces and action ideas, however very few of them quite connects.

Which is kind of a shame, because this film (which had a very brief theatrical release in 2010 before reaching video three years later) was the return to the directing chair of Luc Besson.  Besson went from an intriguing stylist who added some interesting quirk to somewhat tired genres (with La Femme Nikita, The Fifth Element and The Messenger) to his more recent position as writer and producer of click exploitation films (Taken, From Paris With Love and Columbiana).

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec was Besson’s first film as a director since 2005’s Angel-A.  (Since getting back on the horse, Besson has directed Arthur 3: The War of the Two WorldsThe Lady and the upcoming films The Family and Lucy.)  And at least in theory, Adèle Blanc-Sec is right in Besson’s wheelhouse, with a hectic, exciting storyline.

Adèle Blanc-Sec (Louise Bourgoin) is a perky, independent and whip smart reporter in Paris of 1919.  When her sister is put into a coma by an ancient curse, Blanc-Sec has to explore an ancient Egyptian pyramid to find a mummy who may be able to bring her sister back to life.  In the meantime in Paris, her friend, a brilliant scientist, inadvertently brings a pterodactyl egg to life, and soon the flying dinosaur is terrorizing Paris.  All the while, a cartoonish cop, corrupt scientists, criminals and evil doers all try to foil her at all points.

It sounds like a fun, whimsical farce.  And Besson does a good job of giving the film the feel of an animated romp (this is what Spielberg was trying to do, I think, with The Adventures of Tin Tin.)

Sadly, the interesting parts never gel into a coherent whole.

Part of the problem is the heroine, who is supposed to be smart, beautiful, feisty and capable, but all too often comes off as snippy, rude and occasionally even a tiny bit obnoxious.  This is in no way a reflection on Bourgoin, who does a wonderful job in the role, this is just about the way the character is written.

And unless I completely misunderstood things, Adèle completely abandoned her team, leaving them to face certain death, when she escapes from the Egyptian pyramid.

Neither Indiana Jones nor Amelie would ever do that.

In fact, all of the characters seem rather unlikable in their own way, either stupid or nutty or simply mean.

Still, even if The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec is not as strong as it could or should be, it’s a pretty intriguing misfire.  It may not exactly be good, but it is certainly an interesting piece of filmmaking.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2013 All rights reserved. Posted: August 13, 2013.

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