The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec

Very likable shaggy dog story with a charming lead performance.

Released in 2010, certified UK-12A. Reviewed on 16 Aug 2011 by Scott Morris
The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec image

It will perhaps come as no great surprise to reveal that The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec is based, as with every other film these days, on a comic book, however as my knowledge of Franco-Belgian comics is approximately zero it was at the very least new information to me.

The titular Adele (Louise Bourgoin) is an investigative journalist, we're told, although she's a lot more like a Victorian-era, Parisian version of Tomb Raider's Lara Croft. We're introduced to her as she's rummaging around a pyramid, in search not of hordes of Pharaohs gold, but a physician. A long dead, mummified doctor, which would seem a grand waste of effort, at least for those unaware of the capacities of Adele's mate Professor Esperandieu (Jacky Nercessian), whose psychic powers have just hatched a fossilised egg and unleashed a pterodactyl over the skies of Paris.

This naturally draws the attention of the police, pressured by higher-ups to track down and deal with the flying irritant by any means possible. This could cause issues for Esperandieu, who's still telepathically linked with the bird and would not react well to the death of the bird. Adele must help deal with this distraction to allow Esperandieu to get on with the real task, reanimating the Egyptian doctor so he can operate on Adele's sister, coma-bound since a freak tennis accident.

Plainly, this isn't what you'd expect from your average comic book adaptation. Indeed, a quick glance at my esotericometer shows that it measures a full spectrum WTF. It's certainly an imaginative, absorbing and entertaining story, with rich, fun characters and a great sense of adventure.

It's not perfect, running a shade too long and perhaps spending a little too long introducing enemies, of sorts, and then not really doing anything interesting with them, although I get the sense that's more trying to set things up for a sequel than deliberate content padding. This also has something of an effect on the film's conclusion, as the film clearly ends in every sense relating to this film, then starts up something to lead into a new film, then abruptly stops, which is a pretty hamfisted way of dealing with things.

Thirty one million Euros isn't exactly pocket change, but The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec looks substantially more expensive than its price tag. The CG might not be industry-leading, but it's charming and with more character than would normally be seen in these applications. The real standouts are the sets and costume design, both of which are on occasion spectacular and never less than great.

Louise Bourgoin proves to be a feisty and charming lead, and for what as best as I can gather to be her first major acting performance does one hell of a good job. Her drive and determination keeps this shaggy dog story on a short leash, impressive given how easily it would be for it to run off chasing cars and urinating on lampposts.

This is hailed as something of a return to form for Luc Besson, which I suppose I can see given his penchant of producing boneheaded action films and Jason Statham vehicles of late. This is certainly the most unique and the best thing he's had his name attached to in fifteen years, and certainly deserves to find an audience. Were it not for a typically French gratuitous flash of boobies in one scene, it'd be the best family friendly adventure I've seen this year. As it stands, it's still a very likable and charming flick that I'm very fond of.

Luc Besson
Cast list:
Louise Bourgoin (Adele Blanc-Sec)
Gilles Lellouche (Inspecteur Leonce Caponi)
Jacky Nercessian (Professeur Esperandieu)
Philippe Nahon (Professeur Menard)
Jean-Paul Rouve (Justin de Saint-Hubert)
Mathieu Amalric (Dieuleveut)