Jack and the Cuckoo Clock Heart 5 February 2014, France. Distributed by EuropaCorp. Written by Matthias Malzieu. Directed by Stephane Berla and Matthias Malzieu. Produced by Virginie Silla and Luc Bresson. Voices by Jean Rochefort, Rossy De Palma, Olivia Ruiz. On DVD and streaming on Netflix, Amazon, and GooglePlay. 89 minutes.
I’m not sure if you’ve caught on yet but I love wounded, sickly, or unhealthy protagonists. Here then, in this animated steampunk musical, is Jack. Born with an icy heart --it was the coldest day of the year-- he is saved from death by Madeleine, a quick-thinking midwife who gives him a cuckoo’s heart. Because his mother died, he ends up living with Madeleine and a found family of misfits at her clinic.
Of course, if one has a mechanical heart, there are rules one must obey in order to live a happy healthy life. The first is obvious: Do not go fiddling around with the hands of one’s cuckoo clock heart. The second is logical: Don’t become too anxious or too stressed. But the third is more complicated: Don’t fall in love. Madeleine has issues about love, and like a gentler, less malicious version of Miss Havisham in Dickens’ Great Expectations, she wants her adopted child to avoid love. But those are her rules. To this end, she has kept Jack cooped up in the clinic lest he venture out into the world, fall in love, and suffer the slings, arrows, bruises, and hurts of love. Wouldn’t you know it? On the first visit to town, he falls in love with Miss Acacia. So Jack wishes to venture forth, go to school, discover the world.
Jack has two problems: his weak heart and his fear that his heart is weak. Of course a villain brings these two problems to a head. And since this occurs in the 19th century, this villain is reminiscent of Flashman in Thomas Hughes’ Tom Brown’s Schooldays. Our Big Bad’s monologue is one of the coolest self-introductions I’ve seen in any fusion musical. And with the introduction of this rival for Miss Acacia’s affection, the movie gets dark.
This is one seriously cool movie. It’s dark, funny, and full of cameos and allusions to various art forms, media, and stories. For instance, not only does Jack the Ripper pop up but so does George Melies, the filmmaker. Then there is the soundtrack. As I said this is pretty much fusion, so there are musical elements from rock, pop, metal, and even opera. I’ll recommend this for ages 12 and older. It’s a bit too dark for younger kids who’ll be asking what that confusing ending means.