The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec

Movie review by Neil Sadler

Starring: Louise Bourgoin, Mathieu Amalric, GilLles Lellouche, Jean-Paul Rouve, Jacky Nercessian, Phillipe Nahon
Director: Luc Besson

In many ways THE EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURES OF ADELE BLANC-SEC is pretty indescribable. Part adventure, part comedy, part costume drama, part romance and major part fantasy. If it compares to any film, it is probably one that isn’t even completed yet, namely TINTIN. Both are based on famous comic strips that involve fantastic locations and strange characters. I don’t remember there ever being gratuitous breast shots in TINTIN but maybe Spielberg and Jackson are working on rectifying this.

Adele is a famous adventurer and writer who journeys around the world and has earned a reputation for her books on her adventures. While a pterodactyl is seen flying around Paris, Adele is in Egypt attempting to find and resurrect an ancient Mummy but once back in Paris she finds she is linked to the birth of the prehistoric creature and finding it proves essential to her completing her mission.

Populated with bizarre characters and beautiful locations, Luc Besson’s take on the famous Gallic comic strip of the 1920’s may struggle outside France as it lacks the recognition of Herge’s boy detective, but it certainly doesn’t lack enjoyment. Inventive, joyously silly but mostly just plain enjoyable, Besson manages to create a fantasy that although pretty ridiculous, is always constantly amusing.

Considering the last few films Besson has been involved in have been cartoons, it’s unsurprising that there is a cartoonish quality to this film. Twenties Paris looks shiny and amazing as do the plethora of weird and wonderful characters. The humour is very cartoon like which only make the more adult elements (particularly the brief nudity) more jarring but then this is a French film and wears its Gallic charms proudly on its laced stitched sleeves.

What is most enchanting and surprising, is quite how funny the film is. All of Besson’s films have a certain humour to them, but often, as in THE FIFTH ELEMENT, they jar with an audience outside of France. Here, though the humour works well and Louise Bourgoin as Adele is a good combination of glamour and practicality with great comic timing and a commitment to the role that lifts it above the ludicrous.

The sets and costumes may look wonderful, but there are a few moments where the effects don’t quite match the ambition – particularly in some of the pterodactyl flying sequences. It is no SCORPION KING moment, but you always wonder if it is money or time or simply over ambition that gives you these jarring effects.

Outside of France, you wonder what audience this film will have, but for an enjoyable childish, thoroughly adult experience, you could do a lot worse than spending some time in the company of the charming Adele Blanc-Sec.

5 out of 6 stars

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