Film Review: “Despicable Me 3”

Starring the voices of: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig and Trey Parker
Directed by: Kyle Balda, Pierre Coffin and Eric Guillion
Rated: PG
Running time: 1 hr 30 mins
Universal

When we last saw our familiar cast of characters, Gru (Carell) had given up villainy, married Lucy (Wiig) and settled down to raise the bookish Margo, Tom-boyish Edith and adorable Agnes, surrounded, of course, by the Minions. When we meet them, everything is pretty much the same. Gru and Lucy are now agents for the Anti-Villain League and their current assignment is trying to stop a diamond heist being planned by the notorious Balthazar Bratt (Parker), a one-time child-star turned TMZ-style bad guy. When Gru fails at the assignment he is summarily fired by the new boss. Down on his luck, Gru learns that he has a twin brother, Dru (also Carell) who not only has a beautiful head of blonde hair but has longed to be a villain. He and Gru team up to steal the diamond from Bratt, with Dru thinking he is part of a villainous operation not knowing that Gru intends to return the diamond to its rightful owner and get his job back. Oh, and the Minions are back as well!

One of the most entertaining animated film series ever, “Despicable Me 3” continues the Illumination Entertainment tradition of turning out top-notch films that the whole family can enjoy. The new characters breathe life into the series and it’s always a pleasure to hear the vocal skills of “South Park” co-creator Trey Parker, who even goes a little bit “Cartman” here. The level of comedy for the adults is high while the Minions are plenty to keep the kids entertained. While the popular Kevin, Stuart and Bob are missing, presumably off on whatever adventures will make up “Minions 2,” “Despicable Me 3” introduces us to Mel, soon to be, I’m sure, the next big Minion star, an honor well deserved.

Film Review: “The Secret Life of Pets

Starring the voices of: Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet and Kevin Hart
Directed by: Yarrow Cheney and Chris Renaud
Rated: PG
Running time: 1 hour 30 mins
Universal

Our Score: 2.5 out of 5 Stars

As a long time dog lover (and owner), I would be lying if I didn’t tell you I’ve been looking forward to this movie since I saw the first trailer last year. And while that trailer promised a fun look at what our doggies and kitties do when we leave the house, it’s not all fun and games. In fact, you can say it’s a dangerous jungle out there.

Meet Max (C.K.). A friendly dog who has lived with Katie (Ellie Kemper) since he was a pup. Life is good for Max, who spends his time with Katie snuggling and playing with his ball. His time without her is either spent watching the front door until she comes home or hanging out with his fellow pet friends in the neighborhood. However, things change when Katie brings home Duke (Stonestreet), a big shaggy mess of a dog she picks up at the pound. When Max and Duke find themselves on the run from Animal Control, they must join forces or face the consequences.

First the good stuff. “The Secret Life of Pets” is from the same studio that brought you the adorable Minions from the “Despicable Me” films, and the animation is amazing. One scene finds our two pups in water that looks so realistic you can feel the wetness. The characters are well voiced. Besides the two main mutts, Kevin Hart is perfectly cast as an evil bunny while Jenny Slate, Albert Brooks and Dana Carvey shine as well.

Now the bad stuff. Did you notice above when I referred to Kevin Hart as a EVIL bunny? That’s because he is. When Max and Duke find themselves underneath the street and in the sewers of New York City they come across a group made up of animals that have been flushed down the toilet. They are only accepted when they tell a gruesome story about how the killed their masters. KILLED THEIR MASTERS! I almost fell out of seat. Have we come to a point where it’s o.k. for a cute cartoon bunny to jokingly talk about murder in a PG rated film? And a fellow critic pointed out how weird it was that the soundtrack features the song “Bounce” by System of a Down which, depending on who you talk to, is either about drug use or an orgy. Jeesh!

Film Review “Minions”

Starring the Voices of: Pierre Coffin, Sandra Bullock, and Jon Hamm
Directed By: Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda
Rated: PG
Running Time: 91 minutes
Universal Pictures

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

Minions have the lovability of a puppy dog, the comedy stylings of a group of rambunctious Kindergarteners, and they’ve now gotten their own movie. A lot can go wrong when you give the side characters of your main movie their own big picture. When it works, like “Puss in Boots,” it works, but it’s not a very memorable entry. The creators of “Minions” have surprisingly avoided the potential spin-off pitfalls by realizing the best way to handle their yellow pill shaped creations, is by simply allowing them to be silly.

The plot in this movie is paper thin, but it doesn’t need the emotional heft we’ve seen in the previous “Despicable Me” movies. Sure our pint sized pals have their own characteristics, but they don’t have the depth of Gru or the deep characteristics of any of the other humans inhabiting this world. “Minions” mainly follows the three yellow creatures named Kevin, Stuart, and Bob. Their journey begins after a brief and funny backstory on how the minions have become servants. The brave trio is about to go out into the world to find a deviant master. They’ve spent years huddled in the cold ice chambers of Arctic after centuries of accidentally killing or shaming all their previous rulers.

The three arrive in the states and find their way to a villain convention where they become enamored by Scarlet Overkill (Bullock). Unlike Gru, she’s very selfish in her ambitions, which aren’t necessarily made clear. The majority of the movie moves at a disorganized pace that only serves one purpose, to make you laugh and to entertain. And honestly, that’s all I really want out of a movie about the minions.

Despite my enjoyment of all the visual gags and slapstick humor, I wish the story wouldn’t have plodded around so much. The weakness comes when Kevin, Stuart, and Bob are on their own. They communicate through their own gobbledygook language and it doesn’t feel as fast paced as a skit when the minions act more like a collective brain than in an individual manner. Kevin, Stuart, and Bob manage to create their own identity by the end of the movie, but it’s not a very strong one or one that helps differentiate themselves that much from the others in the minion collective. Kevin is the leader of the three, Bob is the most playful and childlike of the group and Kevin is….Kevin.

Just like in the previous movies, “Minions” work best when they react to a situation. Overkill is the deepest character in the movie, but she’s the developed character that populates the “Despicable Me” universe. But if she was created to simply be a piece for the minions to react to, then her purpose has been served. It just feels like a waste when you bring on a big name like Sandra Bullock to voice As for the other voice actors, they’re very good, especially Jon Hamm who plays Scarlet’s lover/accomplice. He almost sounds like Bill Hader, who I highly regard as an amazing voice actor. Not that Hamm is in his post-“Mad Men,” he should consider more voice-acting roles.

It isn’t the best children’s movie of the year, but that’s certainly hard to do nearly a full month after Pixar released its shoe-in for the best animated feature film of the year Oscar. While Pixar has the awards, “Minions” will certainly be raking in the money, but that’s because at the end of the day, the minions are still loveable. “Minions” is fan-service and playful entertainment, plain and simple. If you want more story and plot, maybe you should wait until “Despicable Me 3”.

Complimentary Passes to an Orlando, FL Screening of “Minions” [ENDED]

©2015 Universal

If you would like to enter for a chance to win tickets to the following advance screening below, please leave a comment below with your favorite Minion from the franchise? Winners will be chosen on a RANDOM BASIS on Monday July 6th. Winners will be awarded an ADMIT TWO passes and will be notified via email. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Only one entry per person/per household. Must be 13 years or older to enter to win. Employees of all promotional partner and their agencies are not eligible.

Theater: Regal Winter Park
Date: Tuesday, July 7, 2015
Time: 7:00 PM

The story of Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment’s Minions begins at the dawn of time. Starting as single-celled yellow organisms, Minions evolve through the ages, perpetually serving the most despicable of masters. Continuously unsuccessful at keeping these masters—from T. rex to Napoleon—the Minions find themselves without someone to serve and fall into a deep depression.

But one Minion named Kevin has a plan, and he—alongside teenage rebel Stuart and lovable little Bob—ventures out into the world to find a new evil boss for his brethren to follow.

The trio embarks upon a thrilling journey that ultimately leads them to their next potential master, Scarlet Overkill (Academy Award® winner Sandra Bullock), the world’s first-ever female super-villain. They travel from frigid Antarctica to 1960s New York City, ending in mod London, where they must face their biggest challenge to date: saving all of Minionkind…from annihilation.

Featuring a soundtrack of hit music from the ’60s that still permeates our culture today, Minions is produced by Illumination’s Chris Meledandri and Janet Healy, and is directed by Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda. Brian Lynch has written the screenplay for the 3D-CG comedy adventure, and Chris Renaud serves as executive producer of the film.

Heitor Pereira talks about scoring “Despicable Me 2” and 2015’s “Minions”

Heitor Pereira is a musician who has worked with bands like Simply Red, Elton John, Jack Johnson. He is also a composer who has worked on films like the “Despicable Me” series and and “The Smurfs series”. He is also gearing up to compose the upcoming “Despicable Me” spin-off “Minions”m which is due out in 2015. Media Mikes had the pleasure to chat with Heitor about his work on the “Despicable Me” series and his work with kid/family films.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you approach the score to “Despicable Me 2” and how did it differ if any from working on the first film?
Heitor Pereira: With the first one there was a lot of time spent looking for the right tone and themes. I was also trying to find my way of incorporating some of Pharrell’s material into the score. It worked to a point but I still had to find the right themes for the Minions, the bag guys etc. I got to work together with Pharrell quite a bit on the first film and I would say that there was a lot of influence from him in my score actually. In the second film, for scheduling reasons and other things the job was more divided. He wrote the songs and I completely wrote the score. My goals were to find out how to take advantage of Pharrell’s great energy in the score. The new one was all about discovering the melodies that would go hand and hand with the old melodies for the Gru and the girls. Additional I had to find the tones for Lucy, the purple Minions, El Macho and his three different incarnations. The process I focused on was to try and keep the original themes of the main characters and still at the same time create new music.

MG: Sticking with this franchise, tell us about what we can expect from “Minions” next and how do you plan to approach?”
HP: Coincidentially, I just had a meeting with the directors and it is a completely different project. I won’t say much because the fun is actually the surprise. I also can’t say much about the score because I haven’t written a note yet [laughs]. I saw parts of the movie since it is not yet finished and I know that it is so different and it is definitely going to generate different music, which makes it more fun for me. So I am very excited about getting started.

MG: Besides the “Despicable Me” series, you’ve worked with tons of other kid/family films; what draws you to this genre?
HP: Look, I ask that same question to myself. I am be very dark also [laughs]. It seems like people prefer me smiling [laughs]. I could tell you that soon this will turn around and I will show how bad I am [laughs] but this is a profession and I am sure it will come around. What is nice is that I am a family man myself, I have two kids and I love making this type of music. It is a part of my life right now and I am not neglecting it, I am living it and enjoying the opportunities to the full. I am telling you though that orchestrally it is actually much more demanding than live-action. In terms of composition, because it is animation, the picture changes a few times a week. So that means that the music also changes very frequently. So it is a very challenging world but I love it.

MG: What else is in the cards for 2014?
HP: It’s funny because IMDB lists me as composing “Alvin and the Chipmunks 4″…but I am not unless someone hasn’t told me yet [laughs]. But I am actually have a film called “If I Stay”, which is directed by R.J. Cutler who does TV’s “Nashville”. It is not for little people at all. It is with Chloë Grace Moretz. It is a beautiful movie and very sad but perfect for me. Things are mixing up a little bit, so I am very lucky.