Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Adele Blanc-Sec, played with vigor, spunk and attitude by the lovely Louise Bourgoin, is one driven young woman. When we first spot the young lady, she is in Egypt… I think… doing some tomb raiding, but not for the riches that she casually ignores, but for one of the mummified remains. Curious. I mean I would’ve chosen the gold, but then considering what happened to those scoundrels that usurped that gold, that wouldn’t have been a good idea in retrospect. Just so you know, scoundrels run high in this section of Egypt as Adele’s arch nemesis Dieuleveult (Mathieu Amalric) has shown up and means to do Adele some serious harm. Easier said than done my friend. One fabulous fiery explosion later, Adele and her mummy are on their way back to 1912 Paris in Luc Besson’s action adventure ‘The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec’.

At the time Adele makes it back to Paris, there is a 135 million year old reanimated Pterodactyl flying around town terrorizing the citizenry. That’s a little odd, true enough, but it is relevant to Adele in that this reptile was reanimated by famed scientist Dr. Esparandieu (Jacky Necrcessian), completely by accident mind you, as a test for his skills in reanimating dead stuff. It will all make sense soon enough.

You see Adele has a twin sister Agathe (Laure de Clemont-Tonnerre) who we see laid up in bed, in a comatose state, with a hairpin going from the back of her head jutting out through her forehead. We were curious how this happened, but considering how long it took for us to get the story I imagine this is a big deal in the movie and explaining it to you would constitute a major spoiler, so we won’t do it. This time. Anyway, Adele had read that a physician of Ramses II had special skills in dealing with the exact kind of injury that Adele’s sister is suffering through, so what if she could reanimate this dead dude, have him perform his magic, and Adele can have her beloved sister back? Sounds like a plan.

Problem is that the pterodactyl has killed some important people, and crack Parisian constable Albert Caponi (Gilles Lellouche) has tracked its origin back to Dr. Esparandieu. Not really, because Caponi actually makes Clusoe look like Sherlock, but nonetheless he

has cracked the case of the murderous pterodactyl. This means that Esparandieu will be facing the guillotine in a couple days, which means that all hope for Adele’s sister will be lost.

But Adele Blanc-Sec is nothing if not resourceful and she’s going to bust this guy out of prison come hell or high water. While all of this is going on, Caponi, along with the equally incompetent great white hunter Saint-Hubert (Jean-Paul Rouve), is still searching for the rogue pterodactyl, problem being that the reptile and the professor are so closely linked that if something happens to the one, the same issue will befall the other.

It’s going to take a lot for Adele to complete her goal. A little pterodactyl wrangling here, a daring breakout there, with a brigade of walking, talking mummies thrown in for good measure. Crazy… absolutely crazy.

Besson’s ‘The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec’ is a mighty odd film, one I imagine is also mighty French in nature. Based on a series of beloved French graphic novels, this film is irreverent, silly, over-the-top, nutty and any other adjective you can think of to describe a work that’s not taking itself all that seriously. But amidst this irreverent silliness are some other more intense elements such as death, folks getting shot, beheadings, the comatose sister with a big needle through her skull and the occasional nude scene. About that… for the most part Adele’s story comes off like a kids movie with its bright colors, emphasis on adventure, plucky upbeat music, and the plucky aggressive heroine… then for some reason Adele gets naked and takes a bath. Just so you know, the human body is a wonderful thing and is nothing to be ashamed of and taking bath is something that we do every day. At least it’s something we should do every day, but on this side of the pond, unfortunately still a byproduct of the repressed British Society that used to govern us, the presence of boobs automatically removes one from family movie contention. No matter how nice they might be. I’m not saying that’s right, just that’s the way it is over here. I’m sure this is NOT an issue in France however.

All that aside, Louise Bourgoin rattles off dialog with the skilled precision of an auctioneer and her aggressive translation of Adele Blanc-Sec effortlessly carries this movie from beginning to end.  The special effects were decidedly old-school, particularly the Harryhausen-esque mummy sequences, but very effective in how they were used. The supporting cast, a virtual who’s who of French actors, were joyful to watch because we’re simply not used to seeing thespians such as Amalric and Lellouche in these more comedic roles. I’ve also read that the comatose sister angle is something new, dreamed up by the filmmakers and admittedly this story path does kind of put a halt on some of the adventure elements of the film, maybe humanizing Adele a little more, but definitely bringing down the adventure tone of the film.

‘The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec’ is a rousing adventure yarn, certainly a different kind of adventure than we’re used to seeing, but not so much if we look back at the types of movies that Luc Besson has been choosing to direct over the last few years, this falling in line with those. A fine film for the whole family. Kind of. In a way. If you’re French.

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