The comparisons to Indiana Jones and Amelie have come thick and fast for Luc Besson’s first foray into directing for five years, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec. Whilst Adele Blanc-Sec doesn’t reach either of these lofty expectations, it does carve itself its own little niche, which it trundles along to with a spring in its step and a tongue in its cheek.
Playing as an adaptation of Jacques Tardi’s comic adventure series, Adele Blanc-Sec takes its cues from both ‘Adele et la Bete’ and ‘Momies en Folie’. For the uninitiated, the plot boils down elements from both books and features amongst others, a revived pterodactyl, a whole entourage of polite Egyptian mummies and a freak tennis accident you’re unlikely to see on the courts of Wimbledon this summer.
Keeping the tone firmly set to slapstick, Besson keeps the whole parade going at a brisk pace and, for the most part, these comic (in both senses of the word) adventures are fast, funny and refreshingly light-hearted. The Egyptian mummies, in particular, are a joy to watch, with their mild-mannered politeness and sharp efficiency providing oodles of comic meat for Besson to sink his teeth into. If only the same could be said for Adele Blanc-Sec’s pterodactyl sub-plot, which errs too much on the side of chaotic absurdity, rendering it all a bit juvenile.
It all balances out though, and with a little more substance to go with its Gallic style, Adele Blanc-Sec could have been something great. As it is, it’s a highly entertaining, strongly directed piece of Saturday afternoon fluff.
Whilst not quite as viscerally exciting as Indy, or as charmingly offbeat as Amelie, Adele is still a welcome change of pace, and something of an unexpected surprise. With a sparky central performance from Louise Bourgoin, an assured lightness of touch from Besson and a winning combination of comedy, fantasy and adventure, Adele Blanc-Sec is a lively and entertaining caper across Paris and Egypt. Indiana Jones in petticoats, if you will.
Best performance: Mostefa Zerguine’s charmingly bonkers Egyptian nuclear physicist and part-time mummy, Setimothep.
Best scene: Hairpin + tennis = ouch.
Watch this if you liked: Night at the Museum, The Mummy, Amelie, Raiders of the Lost Ark.
There are a total of 9 albums in the Adele Blanc-Sec comic cannon by Jacques Tardi.