In his first live-action directorial outing since 2005’s Angel-A, Besson adapts the first story from Jacques Tardi’s acclaimed comics, which began in 1976. The titular heroine (played by Louise Bourgoin, Black Heaven) is a professional tomb raider in early 20th-century Paris, like Lara Croft but sporting frilly outfits and feathers.
This grandiose dose of high adventure — as full of farce as it is force — mostly concerns itself with Adèle attempting to locate and lock down the baby pterodactyl currently terrorizing the Parisian skies after suddenly hatching from its 135 million-year-old egg encased in museum glass. Doing so requires Adèle to deal with sexist authorities, break a man out of prison and consult with a talking mummy, all while writing popular novels and caring for her sister, who’s been paralyzed since a nasty hatpin accident on the tennis court.
Bearing not just Besson’s nimble style, but the amusement-park stamp of The Mummy and Indiana Jones franchises, The Extraordinary Adventures quite nearly lives up to the hyperbole of its title adjective. The tone is helium-light; the pacing, spry; and the spirit, rambunctious.
The film is also fun for the whole family ... provided members of the family are OK with the French nature of it all. There’s a reason Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin took a bath at the box office in 2012: American audiences’ unfamiliarity with the character and source material, and in this country, unfamiliarity translates to fear. But it certainly won’t hurt to try, especially given the disc’s option of an English dub, and it only can help youngsters to see a strong female character who isn't sexualized.
Working from his own script, Besson’s only true miscalculation is that the stakes lessen considerably — and with it, overall verve — too many minutes before the finish line is reached, making for some rather deflated final steps. Still, it wins the race, leaving viewers hoping Adèle will return for more spunky, steampunky sojourns. —Rod Lott
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