REVIEW: Despicable Me 2

18 07 2013

No one is mistaking Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Entertainment for Pixar.  Heck, on its best day, I don’t even think it stacks up with DreamWorks Animation.  But that’s not to say that “Despicable Me 2” doesn’t have a place in the market.

It’s a film content to be just simple and sophomoric, corny and childish – but who can blame them for making a kids movie that’s tailored towards children?  It’s got goofy laughs aplenty for the munchkins, and it’s not shudder-inducing for everyone else.  While “Despicable Me 2” doesn’t hit straight at the heart like a “Toy Story” movie, it’s lovable enough to bring out the soft side in everyone.

Though it hardly qualifies as TV-14 humor, “Despicable Me 2” boasts a completely successful bottling of Essence d’Kristen Wiig into an animated character.  Her Anti-Villain League agent Lucy has all the lovable awkwardness of Wiig complete with all her zany body contortions.  She makes up the deficit left by Steve Carell’s Gru and the adorable Agnes, who simply doesn’t have the same unbridled innocent charm as the original “Despicable Me.”

Yet while Agnes decreases, the Minions increase.  Those little yellow corn-nuggets of energy are back in full force, no longer relegated to side-show status like they were in the first film.  They are even better realized in “Despicable Me 2,” achieving a kind of humor not unlike that of silent comedians (albeit in a very watered down fashion).

Illumination certainly did a good job of looking at what worked in the 2010 film and made it even bigger and better for their sequel.  In other words, they’ve come to the market in 2013 with a product even better suited for the moviegoers that made “Despicable Me” such a hit 3 years ago.  That may be good for investors, but it’s not all that great for the fans.  “Despicable Me 2,” not unlike its predecessor, is a rather disposable movie that charms during the experience but dissipates the second you leave the theater.  Though it is funny, it is also rather forgettable.  B-2stars

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REVIEW: Rock of Ages

20 06 2012

Rock of Ages” – the movie too bad to be true.  This horrendous piece of schlock that profanes the movie musical as we know it is thankfully self-consciously corny.  The invitation to laugh at the film’s ridiculousness begins in the first minute when Julianne Hough’s archetypical naive Oklahoman good girl, Sherrie Christian, breaks out in song on the bus to Los Angeles, only to be quickly accompanied by the rest of the passengers.  Surely this movie can’t be for real, you immediately think.

Oh, but it only gets better … er, worse.  The movie quickly runs through the hard rock anthems of the ’80s as if it were selling you a TIME Life boxed set.  Except rather than hearing the original raspy-voiced rockers, we get to hear them sung by actors whose only pipes are situated firmly in their trailer.  Aside from Julianne Hough, a vocal virtuoso, all the decent singers are relegated to bit parts.  Ultimately, that’s not worth getting too upset about since Mary J. Blige and Catherine Zeta-Jones both overact their ridiculous caricatures so much that it negates their singing talents.

No, instead, we are treated to hear Alec Baldwin’s dreadful attempts to belt and Tom Cruise murder three halfway-decent songs as the stuporous superstar Stacee Jaxx.  (I’m just going to throw out my theory that he had a voice double – his singing voice sounded NOTHING like his speaking voice.)  I’m not terribly offended by his performance.  After all, being a child of the ’90s means that these songs hold no sentimental or nostalgic value for me, although I did like “Wanted Dead or Alive” before Cruise tried to sing it.  However, clearly no one learned anything from the Pierce Brosnan-“Mamma Mia!” fiasco, and what could have been an amusing cameo gets stretched out into an obnoxiously long Jack Sparrow impersonation.

Really, the problem with Stacee Jaxx is the same problem with “Rock of Ages” on the whole.  They start out amusing in their lunacy and prove worth a few good laughs.  But it just goes on far too long, just trying to find any excuse to throw another ’80s song into the mix for the soundtrack.  There comes a point where using one random off-the-cuff remark to cue a lavish musical number just becomes plain stupid, and it quickly wears out whatever good will you had in the beginning.  The longer it goes on, the more you begin to realize that “Rock of Ages” loses its chance to proclaim itself so bad it’s good.  Instead, it becomes so bad that it’s bearable.  C





Random Factoid #319

12 06 2010

Standardized tests make me _____ .

a. nervous
b. stressed
c. frenzied
d. ALL of the above

It was a test day for the ACT today, and I was there taking the lovely standardized tests with my #2 pencils, calculator, and a brain in what I dub “testing mode.”

But what I didn’t expect my brain to bring was a desire to hear Russell Brand singing.  Throughout the test, some of the Infant Sorrow numbers kept playing over and over in my head.  I fought off these voices better than I had in the past; at times, I would begin to think that the lyrics were the reading passages.

(The answer is D, by the way.)





REVIEW: Get Him to the Greek

10 06 2010

Some movies really do need to come with a health warning.  “Get Him to the Greek,” for instance, should inform all moviegoers that that it packs enough laughs in under two hours to make you hurt all over.  Along with the usual beautiful gut-wrenching pain, the comedy is so potent that it can hit you as high as the throat.

For a year now, we have been waiting for a movie as hilarious as the runaway smash hit “The Hangover,” and that movie has finally arrived.  I’ll even be as bold to say that upon repeat viewings, “Get Him to the Greek” could prove to be better.  And I’m not being sensational to grab attention or to wind up on the DVD case; I think I laughed harder, louder, and more consistently.

“Get Him to the Greek” is a spin-off of “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” and it manages to make the movie that introduced us Aldous Snow look like the ugly step-cousin in every way.  It’s infinitely funnier; the characters are more interesting; the plot is more absorbing.  I didn’t think Brand was all that funny in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” but now it’s clear that the emotional aspect of the movie weighed him down.  Here, he is unleashed and immature as ever.  And it’s an absolute riot.

Brand and Jonah Hill, who plays young record label employee Aaron Green, are the “Odd Couple” for a new generation.  A pairing such as theirs might be labeled a “comic man-straight man routine,” but the movie neither fits those labels nor feels like a routine.  Both get the chance to side-splittingly hilarious, and it absolutely works.  As much as I expected Brand to run away with the movie, Hill gets some of the best laughs of the movie as he tries to adjust to the crazy antics of the rockstar he’s attempting to control.

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