The distinctive Paris of Micmacs, a city at the crossroads of whimsy and melancholy in an era somewhere between Now and Then, will look familiar to the many fans of Amélie. Director and co-writer Jean-Pierre Jeunet is back doing what he likes best, which is moving eccentric characters around a board in a miniature game of fate and chance.

In Micmacs — the word means something like shenanigans — the wildly popular French comedian Dany Boon (The Valet) stars as Bazil, a lost soul adopted by a gang of junkyard dealers who assist their new friend in a quest with a darker edge: Bazil wants to punish a couple of coldhearted competing French arms merchants responsible for the land mine that killed his father when Bazil was a boy, as well as for the stray bullet lodged in Bazil's head, the souvenir of a drive-by shooting. The colorful misfits (among them a contortionist and an inventor of elaborate mechanical toys) in their Pee-wee's Playhouse of a commune are sometimes a tad too colorful in their circusy quirks. But working with expressive cinematographer Tetsuo Nagata (who also shot Splice, reviewed this week), Jeunet maintains a firm control of his dreamscape creation, drawing on influences as varied as Toy Story, Children of Paradise, and TV's Mission: Impossible. They're a motley band of outsiders, but they slow down the arms race — not bad for shenanigans.

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