Tag Archives: Despicable Me

Minions (2015)

Minions

Unlike a lot of people, I’m not enamoured with the Minions, the yellow, pill-shaped creatures from the Despicable Me movies. Never have been. I’m not into “cute” cartoon characters anyway and don’t understand why people can obsessively gush over creations so obviously designed to elicit “awww”s from grown-ups.

Still, when a movie makes a billion dollars at the box office even before it is released in all worldwide markets (such as China) there must be something more to it than just cuteness. I was also encouraged by the highly positive review from the BBC’s Mark Kermode, who even placed the film in his top 10 of the year (so far). So I checked it out.

My own reaction to Minions? Meh. Don’t get what the fuss is all about. Granted, it’s not as half-assed as some other spin-offs of popular franchises, but ultimately I just found it kinda repetitive and unable to sustain my interest.

For starters, the film has basically one gag: the Minions are always trying to find an evil master but keep ending up toppling them by accident instead. They are more or less a bunch of Forrest Gumps in yellow pill form — they are dim-witted but have an endless supply of dumb luck that seems to always get them out of a jam. It gets better and more varied when Sandra Bullock’s and Jon Hamm’s characters are introduced, though even then it always comes back to that one gag.

Secondly they speak largely gibberish, so you can’t understand them the vast majority of the time. It’s “cute” at the beginning but gets a little annoying after more than an hour of the same thing. Again, audiences have to be rescued by Bullock and Hamm, who actually reveal themselves to be quite talented voice actors and have surprising voice chemistry. Allison Janney and Michael Keaton aren’t bad either.

To its credit, Minions is about as fast and furious as you can get without the presence of Vin Diesel. The gags, while repetitive and hit-and-miss, just keep coming and coming for the entire 91-minute running time. So eventually there will be a few that stick. If you enjoy this style of humour then you’ll probably be laughing non-stop. On the other hand if the jokes elicit not much more than the odd chuckle, then you’ll probably fall in my boat and just find the experience underwhelmingly average.

In some ways you can compare the craziness and zaniness of the film to last year’s The Lego Movie. Both are super-paced and constantly throw jokes at you from all angles, often with uneven results. But I found The Lego Movie a lot funnier — even though it was probably more all over the place — because there was more variety and more shades in the humour. Some of it was random, some of it was deadpan, some of it was dark. By contrast, Minions was more of a one-key affair.

At the end of the day, I still see Minions as a spin-off, and most spin-offs fail to branch out fully on their own. There’s not much that I disliked about the film — it’s more that they just didn’t do much for me despite the occasional chuckle here and there. The characters may be adorable and hilarious  in small spurts, like they are in Despicable Me, though when they are asked to carry a film from start to finish they can’t maintain their charm all the way through, and instead I find that their likability becomes a lot thinner as it is stretched across the longer screen time.

2.75 stars out of 5

Start of Year DVD Blitz: Part II

As Frank Costanza once said: ‘You want it?  You got it!’  Four more movie reviews to continue my Start of Year DVD Blitz.  I predict there will probably be one more after this.  Maybe two.  Or three.

Beautiful Kate (2009)

If Animal Kingdom was 2010’s best Aussie film, then Beautiful Kate was most probably the cream of the 2009 crop of Australian cinema.

In many ways, this was a typical Aussie film — low budget, set in the outback, sad and depressing.  But for some reason I was really affected by the emotions of this splendid movie directed by Rachel Ward.

It’s based on an American story by Newton Thornburg but adapted to Australian conditions, and tells the story of Ned (Ben Mendelsohn), a writer to returns home with his young girlfriend (Maeve Dermody) to his dying father (Bryan Brown) and younger sister (Rachel Griffiths).  Ned’s past his replayed through various flashbacks, most of which revolve around his twin sister Kate (Sophie Lowe) and their tragic youth.

This was the type of film that, perhaps as recent as two or three years ago, I might have scoffed at as another boring old Aussie flick.  But I was never bored with Beautiful Kate.  Because it deals with taboo subjects and has a lot of powerful scenes, I found myself engrossed.  A few sequences towards the end may have overstepped the mark, but this was still a small triumph.

4.25 stars out of 5

Creation (2009)

Paul Bettany is fast becoming one of my favourite actors, and Creation, in which he plays Charles Darwin, may be his best performance to date.

I’ve always been fascinated with the struggle between science and religion, and Creation is at the very heart of this battle, telling the story of how Darwin came about to write On the Origin of Species, one of the most important works ever written (for those who don’t know, it is considered the foundation of the theory of evolution).

I thought a film about writing a book would be rather dull, but boy was I wrong.

Little did I know, Darwin (a fellow Cambridge student — I remember walking past the house where he once lived) was once quite religious, and his wife and first cousin, Emma (played by Bettany’s real life wife Jennifer Connelly) was a deeply devout Christian.  And so it was actually a gargantuan struggle for Darwin to write what he did.

Bettany’s marvellous performance drives this film from start to finish, and I was amazed how moved I was by his story and his relationship with his eldest daughter Annie.  The narrative jumps around back and forth in time quite a bit, which was distracting at first (because I could only gauge the time through how much Bettany’s hairline had receded), but once I ot used to it I was completely captivated by this fascinating film.  The final scene was perhaps a little contrived but it didn’t dampen the experience for me.

I know a lot of people were underwhelmed by this film, but not me.  I loved it.

4.5 stars out of 5

Despicable Me (2010)

Universal’s first foray into CGI animated features was a success.  I can’t believe I had almost zero interest in this film before, which utilises the vocal talents of Steve Carrell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand and Will Arnett.  Perhaps it was the lack of promotion, but Despicable Me was every bit as good as, if not better than, Megamind, that other animated feature about a villain with a heart.

Despicable Me has a pretty familiar core — a bad guy who wants to be worse, but through a bunch of little orphans, becomes good.  However, I loved the humour, which uses a combination of clever references to real life, slap stick and outrageous jokes.  The kids are also very cute.  Not much to dislike here, though I grant you that this will unlikely go down as one of the more memorable animated features.

Nonetheless, I had a great time with it.  Not sure if it can challenge the other nominees in the best animated film category this year at the Golden Globes (Tangled, Toy Story 3, How to Train Your Dragon, The Illusionist) but it will sure give them a run for their money.  Or at least it should, anyway.

4 stars out of 5

Notorious (2009)

I was desperate to see this one (even though I’m not a huge fan of hard core rap) because I had always been fascinated by the Notorious BIG and that whole East Coast-West Coast feud thing with Tupac, which probably led to both their deaths.  I finally got a chance to watch Notorious the other day and it was just okay — a biopic where the subject and story were absolutely fascinating but the film’s execution was somewhat lacking.

The life of Christopher Wallace, aka Notorious BIG, aka Biggie Smalls, is one of rags to riches that was ultimately cut short at the age of 24.  The man was built like a barrel, but he was a rapping genius and had a way with the ladies.  I got to see all of that, but I still didn’t really feel like I got the essence of the man.  I’m not sure if it was the script or the performance of Jamal Woolard, but BIG never shone through, even though he narrated the freaking film.  Perhaps it’s because he was portrayed as not a particularly likeable guy — a bit of a sleeze, a serial cheater and prone to outbursts of violence, especially towards women.

Interestingly, I thought the two most sympathetic characters in the whole film were Puff Daddy (played by Derek Luke) and BIG’s mother Voletta Wallace (Angela Bassett) — and as it turned out, they were both producers of the film.

For a biopic, 123 minutes is not especially long, but Notorious felt long.  I did enjoy it because I was interested in the subject and his life, but this was a film that could have been so much better.

3.25 stars out of 5