TBT – Minions (2015)

animation, films, Jennifer Saunders, Jon Hamm, meh, Michael Keaton, reviews, Sandra Bullock, TBT


Was anyone really crying out for a spin-off Minions movie? I mean anyone other than the film studio who saw another way to wheedle more cash out of poor parents. The tiny yellow creatures were the breakaway starts of the first 2 Despicable Me films so it was decided that they would be given their own film. Cut to months and months of the bloody things turning up on everything. It was a relentless campaign and I ended up feeling like Tippi Hedren in that playground scene of The Birds. Hell, it was only a matter of time before they got their own fucking Tic-Tacs. As I mentioned more than once on Tuesday, I’ve never been a fan and don’t really understand how anyone can find them anything but irritating. However, I do know a fair few people who adore them. My brother-in-law is something of a fan and I willingly added to his obsession by buying him a Minion dressing gown one Christmas. Then there’s a friend that I used to work with who I respect in every sense bar her feelings for these tiny yellow knobs. I don’t get it. As a lover of all things dungarees, I appreciate their fashion sense but that’s about all I can stomach. Their made up language is hardly something that makes me chuckle and I’ve long since passed the age when I find fart jokes and repeatedly saying the word “banana” to be amusing. Then again, I’m not really the kind of person that this film was targeting.

I would have been perfectly happy to have never seen the Minions movie. Despite enjoying Despicable Me and not hating its sequel, I had no interest in the origin story of Gru’s tiny henchmen or having them onscreen for an entire film. It wasn’t the most obvious spin-off as the minions only speak in their own, annoying language and are, essentially, just a series of pratfalls. I really didn’t see how they could sustain a feature film on their own. As I sat down, I was ready to hate every second of what was to come. However, I was shocked to find that I enjoyed the opening sequence. It provides a brief history of the Minion’s search to find a boss and the difficulty they have in holding on to one. Their only stipulation is that they be the most despicable creature around. This means that anyone goes and we see them move from a Tyrannosaurus Rex to Dracula and onto Napoleon in the fantastic opening sequence. It really is the greatest part of the film.

Unfortunately, the film then continues and somebody attempts to place the Minions within a narrative instead of continuing the sequence of tiny skits. Whilst the majority of the group hide in a cave in the Arctic, three of their party (Kevin, Stuart and Bob) head out into the real world to find a new boss. Their journey takes them to New York then to a super villain convention in Orlando and, finally, heading to London. At the convention they meet the rising star Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock) and she hires them to be her henchmen. Their first mission? To steal the crown from Queen of England. The end result? Bob getting crowned as King. It’s all very silly and not always successful but there are humourous moments to be found here. It’s just that it all gets super old really quickly.

There just isn’t enough substance to the usual Minion shtick to carry through a whole feature film. There was a reason they were seen so sporadically in the previous 2 Despicable Me films. There is only so much content that comes from them giggling about nonsense and getting into ridiculous scrapes. This is why they quickly find themselves attached to a super villain so there is a human presence to drive the action. Unfortunately, there is nothing about this plot that really appeals. The characters feel flat and the dialogue is all terrible. It says something when I’d rather hear more of the Minion gibberish than any of the bullshit being spoken by the people.

It isn’t terrible and will no doubt have appealed to all of the young fans of the franchise. It is packed full of sight gags and call backs but, for an older audience, there just isn’t anything about this film that justifies it being made. I wish I could go back in time and talk myself out of watching it.

Tuesday’s Reviews – Baby Driver (2017)

Ansel Elgort, car chase, Edgar Wright, films, fucking beautiful, great soundtrack, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Kevin Spacey, reviews

I’m of an age that means I remember the 2003 music video that paved the way for Edgar Wright’s current hit movie. I’m not bragging: the song is pretty shit and the I can’t imagine that anyone’s missed the band that much. Still, the video is amazing. Not only does is feature The Mighty Boosh (Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt), Nick Frost and Michael Smiley but it’s just great fun. For those of you that haven’t had the pleasure Noel Fielding plays the getaway driver who can only tell the time through track lengths. Whilst waiting for his fellow criminals to rob the bank, he rocks out to the song so he knows when they’ll be done. It’s a great premise that I always felt could have been taken further. Thankfully, so did Edgar Wright and he gave the world Baby Driver. Before we go into the review I want to take a minute to talk about the name. If I hadn’t known this film was connected to Wright then I doubt I’d have seen it. The title gives the impression that it’s going to be nothing more than a sequel to last years’ lousy looking animation Boss Baby and nobody needed that. On the face of it, Baby Driver is a film with a lousy title that stars the kid who died of cancer in The Fault in our Stars. It’s a huge testament to Edgar Wright that it managed to look so fucking cool.

You can tell Baby Driver is going to blow you away from the opening sequence. It is a 6 minute sequence of pure awesome as our mysterious getaway driver rocks out in his car as he waits for his cohorts to rob a bank. Then, in time with the song, the coolest car chase you will have seen for a while kicks in. It’s an exciting sequence that is not only soundtracked by a kickass song but carefully laid on top of it to create something supremely cinematic. All of the tracks in the Baby Driver soundtrack have been carefully chosen so that everything works in harmony to produce something that is more akin to ballet than it is a typical action film. This ain’t no Fast and Furious wannabe. This is nearer to an art form. Yes, that is both a melodramatic and kind of pretentious statement but it is also true, goddammit. Edgar Wright hasn’t made the kind of car chase films that are good because they are so over-the-top and ridiculous. Baby Driver is car chase film that’s good because it’s, you know, good. I defy anyone to watch it and not love it.

Well, except for the title obviously. Something that comes from the getaway driver himself, Baby (Ansel Elgort) and not from any weird connection with Alec Baldwin animated films. Baby is a young man whose poor judgement has lead to him getting caught up in a life of crime. Owing crime boss Duke (Kevin Spacey),  Baby becomes his go-to driver for all of his big scores. He’s something of a lucky charm and, boy, can he drive. He constantly listens to music to drown out the incessant ringing in his ears that he sustained in a childhood accident that killed his mother and father. It soon becomes clear that Baby is not going to be able to leave his life of crime once his debt is repaid, which is unfortunate because he has dreams of driving off into the sunset with the young beautiful waitress he barely knows. Deborah (Lily James) is the light at the end of Baby’s seedy crime tunnel and the start of his road to redemption. If he can just get through one final score.

Which looks tricky thanks to the team he is paired with. The supporting cast that the director has brought together is nothing short of fabulous. Kevin Spacey is the perfect mix of menacing and matey towards Baby and is an imposing figure over the entire narrative. Jamie Foxx is at his most unrestrained as the dangerous and paranoid thief Bats. Finally, the insanely handsome Jon Hamm moves Buddy from loveable rogue to deadly criminal without any difficulty. This is a far cry from Mad Men and it’s bloody great! The only let down is Lily James but that really has little to do with her. The focus here is on Buddy so Deborah never gets the chance to be anything but the perfect girl Baby needs her to be. She has no depth or context. She’s basically a blank slate on which Baby can project his feelings about his past.

If I absolutely had to find a flaw with Baby Driver then I would say it is the narrative. It’s chock-full of every action cliche in the book. From Baby’s tragic backstory to Deborah’s lack of one, it is hardly the most original or exciting plots. There are few moments at the end that seem like weak attempts to tie off loose ends and I could have done without Kevin Spacey’s final act U-turn. But that’s just me forcing myself to be objective. There is nothing about Baby Driver that ruin the over all appeal and excitement. This is a film that isn’t based around a script but around the songs that knit-together to create a brilliant canvas to build on. The film flies when it’s just Baby behind the wheel with music pumping into his ears. Anyone who can not enjoy the moments when gunfire expertly syncs up with drum beats is simply crazy. It is only in the hands of a director like Edgar Wright that a young criminal with hearing problems and mommy issues can work. He makes you care about him and showcases his charms. He makes the business of emotive, high-octane action seem effortless. This is kind of film that countless people will try and copy in years to come but none of them will ever compare to this. I’m going to be so bold and say it’s the film of the year.