Janet Healy

Janet Healy

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Despicable Me 3 Review

Very Good

Actually the fourth film in the series (don't forget the prequel Minions), this animated super-villain comedy continues the wildly hyperactive antics of Gru and his yellow sidekicks, blending hilarious references with crazed action to keep the audience laughing. It's so jam-packed with gags that the movie leaves the audience feeling a little bewildered along the way, since we never get a chance to lock into either the story or characters before we're off for another manic set-piece. But it's a lot of fun.

We catch up with Gru (Steve Carell) and his wife Lucy (Kristen Wiig) as they've just been outfoxed by arch-nemesis Bratt (Trey Parker), a former 1980s child TV star gone very, very bad. Sacked by the Anti-Villain League, Gru and Lucy are unsure how they're going to support their three adopted daughters (Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier and Nev Scharrel). Then they discover that Gru has a twin brother he never knew about. So they head to a remote island nation, where they meet Dru (also Carell), who lives in splendour on his epic pig farm. But Dru dreams of being a villain like their late father, so he convinces Gru to offer him some training. And, pretending that it's a heist, Gru takes Dru along on a mission to capture Bratt.

Every scene is a riot of jokes, mainly poking fun at 1980s movies, music, TV shows and fashion. Bratt is hilariously annoying, with his awful moustache and mullet, and a lair that recreates the set from Olivia Newton John's Physical video. But these witty touches fly at the screen so quickly that they only just register before there are another five gags upon us. The frantic pacing is enjoyable even if it's rather exhausting, mainly because the characters are so endearing. Carell and Wiig once again bring their impeccable timing to their roles, mixing comedy with some surprisingly sweet emotion in their parallel storylines: Gru as he learns to be a brother and Lucy as she yearns to be seen as a mom to the girls, two of whom have little subplots of their own.

Continue reading: Despicable Me 3 Review

Sing Review

Very Good

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

Minions Review

Very Good

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

Despicable Me 2 Review


Very Good

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

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Janet Healy Movies

Despicable Me 3 Movie Review

Despicable Me 3 Movie Review

Actually the fourth film in the series (don't forget the prequel Minions), this animated super-villain...

Sing Movie Review

Sing Movie Review

The quality of the animation in this musical comedy may not be up to Pixar...

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Minions Movie Review

Minions Movie Review

Utterly charming, this silly prequel rewrites the origin story of the minions and sends them...

Despicable Me 2 Movie Review

Despicable Me 2 Movie Review

With the same teams of writers and directors, this sequel sticks closely to the winning...

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