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<Movie Details
20 April 2011 by Elliott Noble

If Amelie and Lara Croft shared the same great-grandmother, it would be intrepid myth-solver Adele Blanc-Sec, the unflappable heroine of nine graphic novels by French comic artist Jacques Tardi.

Which is undoubtedly what pursuaded Gallic multi-tasker Luc Besson to dust off his megaphone and make Mademoiselle Blanc-Sec the next in a formidable line of action queens that began with Nikita, took in Joan of Arc and - in what he swore would be his last live-action directing job - the ethereal ass-kicker of Angel-A.

Pitched at older viewers than his animated Arthur adventures - namely kids creeping towards their teens and adults creeping back to their childhoods - Besson's jaunty fantasy owes much to Indiana Jones. But even more to The Mummy.

Set in 1912, it begins in Paris with doddery professor Esperandieu causing a pterodactyl egg to hatch during his questionable research into reanimation. Unfortunately whenever he loses psychic control, the ever-peckish beast runs amok.

Meanwhile, in Egypt, author-adventurer Adèle (Bourgin) is desperate to procure the mummy of a brilliant physician from the tomb of a great pharoah - a mission not helped by greedy locals and her dentally challenged rival Dieuleveult (Amalric).

The reason for all this is that a freak accident has rendered Adèle's sister brain-dead. With modern science stumped, Adèle is hoping that Esperandieu can resurrect the dead doctor who might then like to demonstrate his legendary healing powers.

But first she must contend with inept cops and a big game hunter while trying to neutralise the ptera-rist threat.

On the plus side, she can always rely on lovestruck scientist Andrej (Nicolas Girard, a slightly smarter version of Father Dougal from Father Ted) and his colleagues. Which is more than can be said for her mastery of disguise.

While the special effects are somewhat laissez-faire and some of the characters are a little comme-ci,comme-ca, this is a thoroughly likeable romp, astutely grounded by its no-nonsense protagonist and a healthy line in gallows - or rather, guillotine - humour.

For the young and the obstinate, it's the perfect introduction to the world of subtitles.

So chapeaux off to the lady who puts the can-can into can-do.