The quality of the animation in this musical comedy may not be up to Pixar standards, but the story and characters are thoroughly endearing. And the music is fabulous. As it follows a group of likeable animals through a variety of plots and adventures, there's plenty for everyone in the audience to connect with. So even if the climactic action mayhem gets a bit ridiculous, the movie keeps us laughing. And it also makes us want to get up on that stage and belt out a few numbers.
It's set in a city populated by animals. Buster (voiced by Matthew McConaughey) is a koala who has been obsessed with musical theatre since he saw the diva Nana (Jennifer Hudson then Jennifer Saunders) perform when he was a child. So he grew up and bought the theatre. Now with audiences waning, he stages a musical competition to save the theatre. In the auditions, he selects his finalists: anarchist porcupine Ash (Scarlett Johansson), jazzy mafioso mouse Mike (Seth MacFarlane) and silky voiced gorilla Johnny (Taron Egerton). He also teams up two pigs as a double-act: frazzled housewife Rosita (Reese Witherspoon) and German dancer Gunter (Nick Kroll). There's also golden-voiced elephant Meena (Tori Kelly), who's too shy to face the audience so takes a role backstage. Of course, nothing goes as planned.
The key conflict comes from Buster's frantic efforts to avoid bankruptcy, plus rather half-hearted action subplots involving a gang of bears and Johnny's criminally minded relatives. These generate quite a bit of tension that erupts into rather outrageously destructive slapstick along the way. More interesting are the personal journeys of the various contestants, especially as Ash, Meena and Johnny all discover their voices and Rosita finds inventive ways to balance her long-lost career with her role as a mother to 25 rambunctious piglets. Yes, the film is rather crowded with characters and storylines, and the animation looks plasticky, but everything comes together cleverly,
Continue reading: Sing Review
Utterly charming, this silly prequel rewrites the origin story of the minions and sends them on a series of adventures that are gently anarchic and refreshingly low-key for an animated blockbuster. The film has an unusually gentle tone, with some real visual artistry to it rather than the cookie-cutter story structure and imagery in most summer movies. And while it's not riotously funny, children will be mesmerised and adults will be smiling.
It opens at the dawn of time, as minions evolve into yellow pill-shaped sidekicks who serve their evil masters throughout history. When they find themselves without a leader, they try to build a society in an arctic cave, but something just isn't right. So Kevin, Stuart and Bob (voiced in Esperanto-style gibberish by director Pierre Coffin) head off to 1968 New York to find a villain to work for. There they hear about ruthless baddie Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock), so they head to Villain-Con in Orlando to meet her. She's impressed by their loyalty and takes them to London to work with her inventor husband Herb (Jon Hamm) on a nefarious plan to steal the British crown from the Queen (Jennifer Saunders). But nothing goes quite as planned.
Since it's set in the 1960s, the filmmakers give the film a groovy vibe, with sun-drenched animation and hilariously colourful details in every scene. Adults are more likely to catch references to things like the Monkees, Hair or Bewitched, but kids will enjoy the general silliness, including lots of chances to sing along with the minions as they babble through classic tunes. Thankfully, directors Coffin and Kyle Balda resist temptation to use the standard animation formula, opting instead for a meandering pace, a less pushy moral message and action scenes that emerge from the plot, settings and characters. And the starry voice cast refreshingly disappears into the characters.
Continue reading: Minions Review
Janet Healy and Christopher Meledandri - BAFTA 2014 Awards Season Tea Party held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, California 11-1-2014 - Los Angeles, California, United States - Sunday 12th January 2014
With the same teams of writers and directors, this sequel sticks closely to the winning formula of the 2010 original: pile on so much snappy humour and colourful wackiness that no one will worry about the plot. So the film is sweetly engaging and relentlessly hilarious, but there's nothing particularly inventive or memorable about it.
After discovering his less villainous side, Gru (Carell) is now trying to go legit with his sidekick Dr Nefario (Brand) and their horde of mischievous yellow minions. Gru is also enjoying the challenges of being a father to his lively adopted daughters Margo, Agnes and Edith (Cosgrove, Fisher and Gaier). Then he meets the undercover spy Lucy (Wiig) and her boss Silas (Coogan), who ask for his help hunting down the bad guy who stole a secret government chemical. Gru reluctantly takes the job, and his suspicion falls on Eduardo (Bratt), not because he looks just like former fellow villain El Macho, but because Margo is in love with his surly teen son (Arias).
As before, the film mixes cute family sentimentality with wacky cartoon slapstick in which everyone gets smashed, pounded and blown up but emerges unscathed to face the next bit of outrageous mayhem. The violent undercurrents are sometimes a little disturbing, especially when children are talking about murder, but the movie's wildly ridiculous tone constantly reminds us to stop taking anything seriously. Thankfully, we're constantly distracted by the whizzy, action-packed animation, which makes especially witty use of the 3D.
Continue reading: Despicable Me 2 Review
In the all-fake town of Thnead-ville, presided over by a greedy corporate-boss mayor (Riggle) who sells breathable air in bottles, nerdy pre-teen Ted (Efron) is trying to impress a girl (Swift). So with the encouragement of his grandmother (White), he sneaks beyond the town's walls to find an extinct real tree. There the outcast Once-ler (Helms) tells him the story of the Lorax (DeVito), an orange fur-ball who speaks for the trees and finally gave up hope.
Unless there's a change of heart and people recognise that they need the trees after all.
Continue reading: Dr. Seuss' The Lorax Review
Gru (voiced by Carell) is a supervillain who has never quite made it. Despite a series of impressive gadgets created with the help of his sidekick Dr Nefario (Brand), he's never managed that one big stunt that would make his name. This is something his mother (Andrews) constantly reminds him. So when young upstart villain Vector (Segel) steals a pyramid, Gru decides to go for his big dream: kidnapping the moon. But his first step involves adopting three orphan girls (Cosgrove, Gaier and Fisher), and they turn out to be rather distracting.
Continue reading: Despicable Me Review
The story begins when Oscar (Will Smith), a working-class fish with fame and fortune on the brain, runs afoul of his boss, Sykes (Martin Scorsese), a puffer fish with the largest eyebrows known to aquaria. Deep in debt, Oscar is taken out to pasture by Sykes' Jamaican jellyfish goons (a hilarious Ziggy Marley & Doug E. Doug). Enter Lenny (Jack Black), a shy shark out on a mission to be toughened up by his brother Frankie (Michael Imperioli) on behalf of his shark mob boss dad, Don Lino (Robert De Niro). One thing leads to another, and suddenly it appears as if Oscar has slain Frankie.
Continue reading: Shark Tale Review
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