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Review: Imagination sparkles in ‘Microbe and Gasoline’

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

“Microbe and Gasoline” is an honest, exuberant ode to adolescence that crackles with creativity, heart and originality.

Director Michel Gondry, whose whimsy often gets the better of him, shows great restraint in this story of childhood friends Daniel (Ange Dargent) and Theo (Theophile Baquet), known as Microbe and Gasoline, respectively. The two set off on a summertime adventure across France in a house on wheels they build themselves out of scrap parts.

The set-up is pure Gondry, the filmmaker and music video whiz whose fantastical imagination bends reality into a daydream. He has always connected to the innocence of youth, whether rendering the White Stripes out of Legos (in the “Fell in Love With a Girl” video) or turning Jim Carrey back into a baby (in his wondrous “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”).

Unfettered, those impulses can be overwhelming; his 2008 film “Be Kind Rewind” was all show to the point where his style was not only a disservice to the story, it became the story. If “Be Kind Rewind” was Gondry on 10, “Microbe and Gasoline” is him at a 2, his ingenuity serving as a propeller rather than an anchor.

And it soars, gliding with the spirit and soul of a caper from another era. It is set in the present but Gondry sternly rejects technology; his dismissal of iPhones, too good of a bit to give away, is funny if a little too on the nose.

Packed with wit and warmth, “Microbe and Gasoline” is a minor key showstopper. It’s proof you don’t always need a huge fireworks display, sometimes a bottle rocket and a few sparklers will do the trick.

agraham@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2284

Twitter: @grahamorama

‘Microbe and

Gasoline’

Grade: A-

Rated R for some sex-related material involving young teens

Running time: 105 minutes