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.
I had wanted to see this much talked about comedy for a while. I have a liking for Will Ferrell, that former Saturday Night Live comedienne who proved so likable and funny in the popular yuletide hit ‘Elf’. So sitting down to this was quite enticing. Farrell plays Ron Burgundy, a TV channel anchor in the seventies who see’s his chauvinistic, macho persona in jeopardy when he falls for a pretty and ambitious reporter (Christina Applegate).
From the off it’s clear this may have been a fun sketch on SNL, but does it hold up to a full length movie? Not really. Burgundy as a character is a limited ‘gag’ that’s been done before and his surrounding news team, featuring the likes of Paul Rudd and Steve Carrell are equally limited in their appeal. The pairing of Farrell & Applegate works well enough as they make for fun rivals, but after a while the forced humour and the general gooning and pratfalls gets tired. The idea just isn’t all that special, and despite obvious enthusiasm from the cast – the general feeling I was left with was of a simple gag milked for all it’s comedic value, of which there was only very little.
That being said it’s not like this isn’t funny. Farrell gets some good moments (his encounter with Jack Black, his descent into self-loathing), and a showdown between rival news teams with cameos by Tim Robbins and Ben Stiller proved quite funny. Overall though, this was a movie trying to be a lot funnier than it clearly was.
The first DM was a welcome surprise. I had low expectations, it wasn’t by Pixar or Dreamworks and featured a quirky art style. But why did it work so well? Let’s just say it had a surprising amount of heart, telling the tale of down on his luck super villain Gru (Steve Carrell) whose plan to steal the moon(!) is complicated when three orphan girls come into his care. It was funny, full of ‘aww’ moments and genuinely charming. This follow up has former villain Gru getting recruited by the shady Anti-Villain League to track down a stolen top-secret formula, and is aided by spunky female agent ‘Lucy’ (Kristina Wiig) who as you can guess becomes an unexpected love interest for our put-upon main character.
This sequel showcases the ingenious creations that won so many fans last time, namely the ‘minions’ as well as some great chemistry between Gru and Lucy, and plenty of continued ‘aww’ moments with the children. I felt that unlike the last movie which focused on Gru’s relationship with the girls, making them more of a side line was a mistake – they are the heart and soul of this concept, but instead we get secret agent action, gadgets, lots of minion moments (never a bad thing) and a rather disappointing villain. However on a visual scale this is a tour-de-force. It’s definitely one of the most visually captivating and eye-meltingly gorgeous movies I have ever seen. Animation house Illumination have really out done themselves.
There is a lot going on, a few twists here and there and a fun ‘who dunnit’ plot, along with some great site gags (the sushi bar moment) – so overall this was almost as good as the first, but by throwing in more action and a predicable love story, the magic is missing somewhat. Taken on it’s own merits however, I still had a ton of fun.
SteveCarell (40 Year Old Virgin) plays Dodge, an easy going insurance salesman whose wife runs out on him during the run up to a meteorite hitting the planet. As chaos erupts and everyone starts making their final arrangements, Dodge stumbles upon Penny (KeiraKnightley) an equally unlucky in love British girl. Soon they are taking to the road in hope of being with those that they love.
This is a likable romantic comedy that suffers from a bit of personality disorder. The first half seemed quite broad comedy, with a few crude gags and bizarre characters. Then it changed, got more serious and meaningful, and became all the better for it. The scripts is quite sharp with some good lines (“I want you to be my last”), and the performances are decent with Knightley, usually annoying, proving quite charming for a change. Also the concept is believably done … with some good observations, saying much on how we really might act during an apocalypse.
As a refreshing take on end of the world movies this proved interesting and at times quite touching, but seemed a bit too slight overall to really shine. Still, a passable night’s viewing.
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.
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