Title: The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec
The eponymous Adele Blanc-Sec is a French writer and reporter travelling the world of 1912 in search of fantastic stories and, as the title implies, extraordinary adventures. The pitch for this movie is: what if famous female reporter Nelly Bly did everything Indiana Jones did but in heavy ankle length skirts and large elaborate hats? That is Adele Blanc-Sec.
Ages 10 and up
The movie is rated PG and the real trick with the age recommendation is two-fold. First, this is a French film that is available with an English overdub. At the risk of exposing my prejudice I will say that overdubs of live action movies are universally terrible. No exceptions. Fortunately the DVD is equipped with the original audio with English subtitles. I strongly encourage you to watch it in French with subtitles. The other consideration is the subplot featuring Adele’s sister – but more on that in a moment.
Perhaps the first content warning I should give is that this movie is French. Voilà, within the first thirty minutes you get a man urinating on a statue of Joan of Arc and an old guy frolicking in the back of a motorcar with a courtesan in a way that is … almost too much. Nothing is shown in either of these scenes but, seriously, did a film aimed at children did they need to go there?
The film is also populated with mummies the way Pirates of the Carribbean was populated with animated skeletons. The thing is, despite their shambling dessicated state, the mummies are really very charming. No kidding, they were some of my favorite characters. If you’re big into zombies and you want to get your kids started young on their appreciation of the walking dead this is the movie for you.
Which brings me to my final content warning, Adele’s sister. I’ll try not to give too much away here but suffice it to say she spends most of the movie looking mostly dead, which she is. She’s pretty creepy looking and to crank up the macabre we get a flashback to the accident that caused her condition. I would say it’s unnecessarily grim but it’s used as a key motivating plot point for Adele so we’re stuck with it.
The director, Luc Besson, is well known for action films starring powerful female heroes like Le Femme Nikita and the 5th Element so it’s no surprise that Adele is a strong protagonist and the action pieces are well done. When my daughter and I came across this on our video store shelf I had no idea that it existed but the stills on the box looked good and I’ve enjoyed Luc Besson’s films in the past so I figured it was a safe bet.
The film is based on a french graphic novel of the same name by Jacques Tardi. One thing I really like about the character of Adele in the movie is the way she carries a grim disdain for anything foolish. She is very confident, competent, and no-nonsense. The filmmakers even twist the stereotypical male/female cinematic roles by having Adele pursued by a young botanist who is so in awe of her that he repeatedly forgets how to pronounce his last name when they’re together. Adele is a worthy hero both boys and girls can respect.