Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart (Jack et la Mecanique du Coeur) (PG)

Animation 90 September 24, 2014
By Sherilyn Connelly
Stéphane Berla and Mathias Malzieu's animated musical Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart is the best Tim Burton film that Burton will hopefully never (re)make. It's based on both a book by co-director Malzieu and a concept album by his band Dionysos, who also provide the unusually heavy music. Jack (Orlando Seale) is born on the coldest day ever known in 1800s Edinburgh, so cold that his heart is frozen; midwife and eventual adoptive mother Madeleine (Barbara Scaff) replaces said heart with clockwork — and the caveat that Jack must never get angry and/or fall in love. Naturally, as a teenager, he soon falls, in this case with street singer Acacia (Samantha Barks), whom he follows across Europe to an Andalusian carnival.

There Jack becomes a protégé of film pioneer Georges Méliès (Stéphane Cornicard) and continues his courtship of Acacia, in spite of his frail heart and her tendency to sprout thorns when nervous. Though dubbed into English, Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart is still very French, essentially a goth-industrial rock opera with a remarkably stylish production design that's often reminiscent of Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet's collaborations. That said, the characters aren't quite stylized enough; though they have skinny bodies and disproportionately big heads, their just-realistic-enough facial features often veer into the Uncanny Valley. But that's the French for you.
Mathias Malzieu, Stéphane Berla Mathias Malzieu, Olivia Ruiz, Emily Loizeau, Rossy de Palma, Arthur H, Grand and Corps Malade, Jean Rochefort, Babet Mathias Malzieu Luc Besson, Virginie Silla Shout! Factory