Minions

Minions is more cute than funny. Despite its quick-moving story and a handful of memorable human characters, Minions is tailor-made for the younger crowd. Little kids should love it. For adult filmgoers, it’s a definite maybe.

In the two Despicable Me movies, the minions were amusing support players; here the capsule-shaped yellow creatures are the film’s centerpiece. When a TV sitcom sidekick gets a show of his/her own, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Are the minions strong enough to carry the movie? I say yes, but it’s borderline.

The film opens with the evolution of their species. The minions seek their life’s mission: to serve the worst villains they can find. The list includes a T-Rex, Dracula, Napoleon, etc. When minion life becomes boring, three minions (Kevin, Stewart and Bob) set out to find new villains to serve.

They come ashore in 1968 New York City where a billboard touts one of America’s real life political villains. But the yellow trio hitches a ride to Villain Con in Orlando with Walter and Madge Nelson (Michael Keaton and Allison Janney) and their kids. At the con, they meet up with Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock), touted as the first female super villain, and her husband Herb (Jon Hamm).

When she drafts them to do her bidding, they join her in England where she conspires to take the crown from Elizabeth. After a series of wacky activities, the Queen gets her crown back and (with an assist from the other minions who’ve joined them in London) the trio emerge as heroes.

Because of its 60s setting, the soundtrack includes classic tunes from The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Turtles, The Kinks and The Who. An appropriate salute to the minions’ pigmentation is Donovan’s Mellow Yellow. (The minions hum the opening Universal fanfare… which would’ve seemed clever if the Barden Bellas hadn’t just done it better in Pitch Perfect 2.)

Minions ranks a notch below the two Despicable Me movies, but should draw huge audiences because of the love for the predecessors. AND because of heavy marketing—(get your Minions Happy Meal!)—aimed at that youthful target. Sometimes an animated film has just as much adult appeal as kid appeal, if not more. That’s not the case with Minions.

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Tammy

 

Melissa McCarthy is funny. She was hilarious in 2011’s Bridesmaids and in last year’s The Heat. And she brings some laughs in Tammy.

But this movie doesn’t fly. It falls short in the hilarity department. It lacks memorable scenes. And, sadly, McCarthy’s act becomes tiring.

Also, this is another comedy that reveals some of its best stuff in the trailer. (Nonetheless, the trailer is posted above.)

Essentially a road trip movie with Tammy and her grandma Pearl (Susan Sarandon), Tammy is blessed with a talented cast. Tammy’s mom Deb (Allison Janney), her dad Don (Dan Aykroyd), Pearl’s cousin Lenore (Kathy Bates), Lenore’s partner Susanne (Sandra Oh), Pearl’s hookup Earl (Gary Cole) comprise a strong crew. Toni Collette plays a mostly silent woman who shacks up with Tammy’s husband (Nat Faxon).

When Tammy catches her husband cheating (after her car hits a deer and she gets fired from her job), she escapes with Pearl on their adventure. After they end up in jail, Pearl uses her remaining cash to bail out Tammy. Tammy then robs a fast food joint to then bail out Pearl.

The robbery is slightly funny. It tries to be one of those “spontaneous” bits with some ad-libs—like the one McCarthy had in 2012’s This Is 40—but it doesn’t quite score a knockout.

McCarthy co-wrote the script with her husband Ben Falcone, who directed. Falcone (who played the air marshall in Bridesmaids) also plays the boss who fires her early in the movie.

Tammy is the kind of movie to watch on cable or Netflix sometime next year. You’ll be somewhat amused but not overwhelmed.

 

 

 

Bad Words

Bad Words is one of those funny little movies that is definitely not for everyone. It has a ridiculous concept, an obnoxious lead character and a charming kid.

Guy Trilby (Jason Bateman) is a 40-year-old proofreader with an encyclopedic knowledge of words. He finds a loophole in the rules and enters a spelling bee in Columbus, Ohio, which he wins. He moves on to the national finals where the story picks up steam.

On the plane ride to LA, Guy meets and immediately disses a young boy of Indian descent (Rohan Chand) who ignores the putdowns and maintains his upbeat attitude.

Dr. Bernice Deagan (Allison Janney) runs the spelling bee. She is just as upset at Guy’s participation as are the parents of the kids in the bee. Dr. Bowman (the 82-year-old Philip Baker Hall) is the emeritus leader of the bee. He co-hosts the national telecast of the finals with Pete Fowler (Ben Falcone).

Jenny (Kathryn Hahn) is Guy’s sponsor and occasional lover. She has an online news outlet for which she is covering him and his wacky mission. She works to discover his reasons for crashing this party to which he is not welcome.

Other than his talent for spelling, Guy has no obvious redeeming social values. He is an absolute dick. He is rude to everyone: the kids, their parents, Jenny, the hotel staff, etc.

Eventually Guy becomes a friend to the young boy with the perky spirit. He takes him out for a night of totally inappropriate debauchery. Is sabotage his ulterior motive?

Bad Words delivers a few big laughs and several chuckles. Guy’s bad behavior, especially the terrible things he says to people, is often shockingly impolite. An actor less likeable than Jason Bateman would offend greatly. Guy is a total jerk but because it’s Bateman in the role, audiences are more likely to cut him a break.

Bad Words is Bateman’s competent debut as a director. The script is by rookie Andrew Dodge.

Viewers who appreciate its outrageous story and its mean-spirited humor have already championed this film. There are critic blurbs galore. But Bad Words is a movie with a central character who is hard to embrace and cheer for. That, for me, makes this movie hard to like. See Bad Words at your own risk.