The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec (2010) Review

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The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec (2010)

~Review by Grawlix (June 2020)

The year is 1912. Parisian travel journalist and all-purpose adventuress Adèle Blanc-Sec (Her surname translates to “Dry White”. She’s from a winemaking family, you see.) is exploring an ancient Egyptian tomb in search of the mummified remains of the royal physician to Ramses II. Five years before, Adèle’s sister was paralyzed in an unfortunate mishap and Adèle hopes that ancient knowledge can succeed where modern medicine has failed. In due course, she finds the mummy. The good doctor has been dead for some 5000 years, an obstacle Adele seeks to overcome with the assistance of the brilliant but eccentric Professor Espérandieu. Unfortunately, Espérandieu has problems of his own, having inadvertently awoken a prehistoric pterodactyl (as opposed to a modern one, I suppose), in a psychic experiment gone awry, which is now rampaging across the skies of France.

As you might guess, Adèle is not a film that takes itself too seriously. Based on a 1970s French comic series, there’s an uninhibited sense of fancy that practically leaps off the screen, a styling that is firmly within director Luc Besson’s wheelhouse. The action and adventure speed forward regardless of otherwise rational limitations. For example, when Adèle repeatedly attempts to break an associate out of jail, her only penalty for failure is being brusquely ejected from the premises, free to try again. There’s also plenty of humor, mostly in the form of a harried police inspector tasked with ending the pterodactyl menace and the big game hunter he hires to help, but rarely does any scene go by without someone making a wry, offhand remark about the absurdity of the present circumstances. If there’s a knock on the film at all, it’s that some of the CG effects haven’t aged so well, but then, CG effects rarely do.

It’s a little surprising to me that The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec hasn’t gotten more play in America. Adele herself is like a cross between Lara Croft and Mary Poppins, a learned, cultured lady of taste and sophistication who is nonetheless willing to tear her dress and dirty her hands if the situation calls for it – practically tailor made for a fairly large potential US audience. I’d say the movie would make perfect family viewing if it wasn’t for a brief topless bath scene (ah, the French), but supposedly there’s a PG cut that snips those offending bits out. It’s possible that it might be a little too out-there for the casual viewer, but if you’re the type who enjoys movies that probably wouldn’t make it past a focus group, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec is well worth the effort of seeking out.    

Side note, I viewed the French language version of the film, subtitled in English. There is an English dubbed version, but I can’t comment of its quality. Can’t imagine it would be too bad, though. This isn’t exactly a movie that lives or dies by line deliveries.  

Final Score: B

Imagine if Lara Croft was introduced in a French comic book twenty years before the release of Tomb Raider and you basically have The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec. Sometimes the cultural differences trip things up, but the pervasive sense of whimsy and abandon is infectious and impossible to ignore. It is absolutely criminal that it isn’t better known and hasn’t produced any sequels (a trilogy was originally planned, but it’s been almost a decade, and nada.)


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