Netflixable? The Singularity isn’t nearly silly enough in Jeunet’s “BigBug”

A loud round of applause for Netflix for giving that master of dark French whimsy Jean-Pierre Jeunet, creator of “Delicatessen,” “Amelie” and “The City of Lost Children” money to make one of his twisted tales in his inimitable eye-candy style.

But it’s a crying shame “BigBug,” the Netflix film that resulted, is as plastic as Saran Wrap, as warm as Saran Wrap and as amusing as a puppy wrapped in Saran Wrap.

His big idea for the streaming service as another “trapped in one building” story (“Delicatessen”) in which future humans, absurdly reliant on AI, are locked in their houses as the AI “Singularity” is achieved and “Terminator: Judgement Day” begins.

Jeunet & Co. (co-writer Guillaume Laurant) try to wring pathos, thrills and laughs out of ridiculous people trying to outsmart machines, with the added bonus that their household “mecas” (mechanical), robots, are sympathetic to their humans and want to BE human, and so help out as best they can.

The “Jetsons” eye candy ‘bots, fashions, household gadgets and whatnot are impressive enough that the filmmaker pauses to take in brainy bot “Einstein” or Monique (Claude Perron), the maid robot who customizes herself to please her human owners in ways that include sexual ones.

That’s what’s going on with the household ‘bots. They’re coddling and ingratiating themselves with the humans trapped inside when “The Big Jam” (a massive self-driving car traffic jam) turns out to be the harbinger of the robot apocalypse. Can these “family” robots prove their humanity and help save the actual humans?

The cyborg enforcer/security robots from high tech Yonyx all look like Francois Levantal dressed up as a RoboCop member of the Borg. These cyborgs are hosting popular reality TV shows and running for president. And they’re scary as all get out, equipped with lasers and new rules and laws that they themselves created to facilitate their take-over.

But why should they fret over humans fighting back? None of them can get out of their “Smart” houses.

The jokes are lame, either in English or French with English subtitles. Jeunet is better known for twisted sight gags, and there’s just one of those that really paid off for me — a hypnotized ditz (Claire Chust) is ordered to do something, convinced she has boundless strength, by a cyborg. She proceeds to drag all the other divorced parents, their hooking-up teen kids and a neighbor all the way across the living room to do the evil Yonyx Corp’s bidding.

Those French and their pantomime.

The people playing machines (Perron, Levantal and Alban Lenoir) stand out in the cast, but not for doing anything new with the “I’m stiff and jerking around because I’m a robot, get it?” bit. They stand out mainly because the humans playing humans are mostly dull, even the ditz.

Jeunet can’t even find much that’s funny about a cloned eternally obnoxious Jack Russell terrier, “the neighbor’s dog,” after introducing him.

After “Micmacs” (2009) I pretty much gave up on Jeunet, who had quite a run from the post-apocalyptic farce “Delicatessen” through “Lost Children,” “Alien Resurrection” (an inventive if not brilliant sequel), “Amelie” and “A Very Long Engagement.” So had film producers and financiers, judging from his slim filmography since then.

But I still applaud Netflix for giving him one last shot. Even though he blew it, “BigBug” still looks like nothing else that’s hit the screen in years. It’s just that he used to tell more touching and more whimsically interesting stories with those quirky settings.

Rating: TV-MA, sex, nudity

Cast: Elsa Zylberstein, Isabelle Nanty, Claude Perron, Stéphane De Groodt, Youssef Hajdi, François Levantal, Claire Chust, Marysole Fertard, Alban Lenoir, Hélie Thonnat and Dominique Pinon.

Credits: Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, scripted by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Guillaume Laurant. A Netflix release.

Running time: 1:51

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
This entry was posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news. Bookmark the permalink.