The original Despicable Me was a great spin on an old idea… a somewhat inept but dedicated villain finds his life and evil world-conquering plans turned upside down when three orphan girls come into his care. It worked great and also happened to (for better or worse) introduce the world ‘the minions’. Now reaching the third entry, following a somewhat underwhelming minions movie spin-off, I approached this with only marginal hype.
Gru (perfectly voiced again by Steve Carell) is now a special agent working for the Anti-Villain-League, who after failing to apprehend for the umpteenth time a wily villain obsessed with the eighties – suddenly gets fired by the agency’s new boss. However whilst sitting on his laurels, tempted to return to a more villainous life, he discovers he’s got a long lost twin brother.
This was a riot of fun. It’s a little jam-packed with story threads but somehow manages to hold it all together, helped by a sharp and laugh-out-loud script and colourful, brilliantly designed characters. South Park’s Trey Parker turns in excellent voice work as comedy moon-walking villain Balthazar Bratt – a former child actor who never got over his career hitting the skids when puberty kicked in. The several spot-on music cues work wonderfully and the gags come thick and fast. ‘Dru’, Gru’s brother is a tad irritating, and I’d have liked much more for the three girls to do other than bonding with Gru’s girlfriend Lucy (Kristen Wiig) and hunting for a unicorn.
By the third outing, ideas of course can get recycled (ahem, Toy Story 3) – but something about the Despicable Me franchise I could just watch and watch. This latest effort doesn’t buck the trend. Recommended.
Although when I was younger I would enjoy watching movies starring Danny Kaye on a Saturday afternoon, the original 1947 whimsical comedy wasn’t one I recall seeing. Therefore although I usually hold remakes in some disdain, this one was more welcome. Ben Stiller stars as loner office worker Walter who lives his life day dreaming about adventures, more than often featuring his workplace crush Cheryl (Kristen Wiig). When the threat of redundancy puts everyone on edge at the magazine he works for, a telegram from a renowned explorer / photographer (Sean Penn) sees Walter clutching onto his last hope for adventure.
This utterly charming and clever movie has Ben perfectly casting himself (he also directs!), equally well supported by the always lovely Kristen. The movie takes the blueprint of the Danny Kaye movie and attempts to really go to town with it, resulting in lavish and outrageous fantasy set pieces such as rescuing a dog from a burning building and a Matrix-like street surfing battle with his boss (!). It’s an idea that proves a bit hit-and-miss (who came up with the Benjamin Button sequence?) but livens up what would otherwise be a pleasant but very gentle story. Add to this stunning cinematography with a Forest Gump-like tone for Walter’s globe trotting scenes, and this also proves a visual treat.
I found Walter’s motivation for setting off in search of the explorer, considering his employers are a bunch of arrogant dicks, lacked plausibility and the love story sub-plot with Wiig could have been more engaging if she’d tagged along (for real, not just in his head). Add to this some artsy effects that didn’t always work (we see a brief text message displayed on the side of a mountain, that I had to rewind because I missed what it said…) and a (mostly) forgettable soundtrack … this almost fell short. Thankfully Stiller is excellent and very likeable throughout and there’s enough feel good, heart-warming moments (Wiig’s Major Tom bit) and creative razzle-dazzle to make this one to check out.
On first hearing of this, I passed it off as a cash-in on the success of The Hangover movies, but from a female perspective. And although during the awards season this was getting almost as much press as the likes of The Artist and Hugo, I still wasn’t convinced. Kristen Wiig (Paul, Saturday Night Live) plays a down-on-her luck woman who is given the responsibility of being the Maid Of Honour at her best friend’s upcoming wedding. Taking the role on with passion, she soon finds her life turned upside down as a result, and events quickly start to spiral out of control.
Now what surprised me with this one, was that going into it I was expecting a mildly funny, tiolet-humour based comedy with lots of swearing and crude gags. It has all that in spades, but what it also has is heart and emotion, mostly down to Kristen Wiig’s character’s rocky love life and the heart-warming friendship she has with the bride to be, that are both touching and believable. This is a movie that is much more than the sum of its parts. It’s not just a comedy, it’s not just about a wedding … it’s incredibly feel good, well acted and full of great lines, great characters and great moments (the dress fitting, anyone?). Supporting cast members Chris O’Dowd and Rose Byrne especially shine, and Wiig continues to be one of the best female comedy stars around, carrying the movie with real panache.
Of course it’s not perfect, with a pointless Matt (Little Britain) Lucas cameo and some of the comedy gets a tad OTT, but as a movie that gave me the impression it was one thing, then turned out to be so much more – I came away shouting its praises to anyone willing to listen. Simply brilliant.
In a world where animation house Pixar gets all the best press (ahem, Toy Story 3 Oscar) it’s possible to forget there are other equally as talented animation studios around churning out movies year in year out. Dreamworks usually gets all the remaining publicity with the Shrek franchise, leaving smaller movies to fall under the radar. This should not be one of them however.
It’s easy to like Brit comedy actors Nick Frost & Simon Pegg, two obvious best buds whose television and movie parings have made for comedy gold, helped by their obvious talent and endless knowledge of pop culture. Shaun Of The Dead, their big-screen debut was the perfect marriage of romantic comedy and zombie horror and remains one of the best comedies to ever come out of the UK. Pegg has subsequently gone onto a Hollywood career, starring in the likes of the Star Trek reboot. But as is expected, he’s right at home alongside Frost, and again we have a sure-fire hit on our hands.
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