Despicable Me 3 (2017) Review

Despicable Me 3 (2017)

Directed by Pierre Coffin & Kyle Balda

Starring: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Trey Parker, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, Nev Scharrel, Steve Coogan, Julie Andrews, Jenny Slate, Chris Renaud

Music by Heitor Pereira & Pharrell Williams

Production company: Illumination Entertainment

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
In the film, Gru teams up with his long lost twin Dru in order to defeat a new enemy named Balthazar Bratt, a 1980s child actor who grows up to become a villain.

My Opinion:

Another quickie review today! I’m trying to catch up since I try to review the things I see in the cinema (I managed to finally review Gifted yesterday). At least I missed out on Spider-Man: Homecoming due to a headache so I don’t have to worry about reviewing that! Wait, no – that sucks. I want to see that, dammit. But now I don’t know when it’ll be. Anyone seen it? What did you think? Oops – I’m meant to be reviewing Despicable Me 3…

What can I say? I love those damn minions (one of cinema’s greatest creations, quite frankly). I absolutely adore the three Despicable Me girls (I’d adopt them if you could legally adopt cartoon children) and I love their adorable relationship with Gru. The first Despicable Me film is a favorite of mine, which is extremely rare for an animated movie that wasn’t made by Pixar or Disney. I’m a total Disney/Pixar snob – all other animation production companies can’t even compare. BUT! The first Despicable Me rules. The characters, the soundtrack, the MINIONS…. ! Love it.

As with all money-grabbing animation sequels, though, Despicable Me 2 & 3 obviously pale in comparison to the first. I looked back at my review for Despicable Me 2 (HERE) and I was far too generous with my rating, which I’ve now knocked down slightly to 7.5/10. That’s still probably too high but I think I was buzzing from once again getting to see these characters that I enjoy. I felt the same way while watching number 3 and, when first coming out of the cinema last weekend, probably would’ve rated it slightly too high if I hadn’t waited a week to review it. I at first felt it was a tiny bit better than number 2 but have since changed my mind since watching part of that one with the kid again. 2 & 3 are fairly close but 2 gets half a point more for funnier minion scenes, better use of Pharrell’s brilliant music, and a much stronger opening. Both 2 & 3’s villains are quite weak but, meh – who cares when we get to see Gru, the girls & the minions again? Gru’s long-lost twin brother is probably a love-him-or-hate-him addition but I found him a better character than the lacklustre villains of the last two and slightly less annoying than Lucy (who I’m still unfortunately not crazy about, but that’s not helped by her not being given much to do in number 3).


I think I’m probably going too easy on this film because I love the characters & also love seeing how much my kid enjoys these movies (I think she thinks she IS Agnes sometimes). Despicable Me 3 isn’t a great film but, if you love these characters, I think you’ll get some enjoyment out of it anyway so I would still recommend it to fans. I think reviews have been a bit too harsh since the first movie was so good. But, to be fair, I’ve seen FAR worse animated sequels. And it’s certainly better than the Minions movie, which truly suffered from the lack of the three girls. Oh, and I’ll say I was very worried when seeing the trailer for this one that the girls would barely be in it (why the hell weren’t they in the trailer?!) so I’m happy to say their roles are about as big as they were in the second film. Maybe that’s why I ended up not being disappointed since that horrible trailer gave me very low expectations. But I enjoyed it just fine. It’s watchable. I still adore these characters. But it would be nice if the movies were getting slightly better each time instead of slightly worse…

My Rating: 6.5/10

*I’ve amended this rating – think I was too generous with a 7/10…

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The Dinner by Herman Koch (Book Review)

I’m reviewing the book The Dinner by Herman Koch as the movie is released today in the U.S. There’s currently no U.K. release date scheduled. The movie was directed by Oren Moverman & stars Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Steve Coogan, Rebecca Hall, Adepero Oduye & ChloΓ« Sevigny.

The Dinner by Herman Koch

What It’s About: (via Amazon)
It’s a summer’s evening in Amsterdam, and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant for dinner. Between mouthfuls of food and over the polite scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse — the banality of work, the triviality of the holidays. But behind the empty words, terrible things need to be said, and with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened.

Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. The two boys are united by their accountability for a single horrific act; an act that has triggered a police investigation and shattered the comfortable, insulated worlds of their families. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children. As civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple show just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.

My Thoughts:

I liked this book but it’s probably not for everyone. I’ll avoid plot spoilers but I’ll tell you that none of the characters are very likable, which puts a lot of readers off (including me, usually). The story was intriguing enough to keep me reading, however, and it’s not a long book so it’s a pretty quick read. It might be worth your time if the plot synopsis interests you. However, it’s also the type of story that should work well as a movie so, if it’s a decent adaptation, you might want to skip the book. I’ll let you know if the movie does the book justice (if the movie ever gets a U.K. release date)! It’s a film I’m definitely wanting to check out as it’s one I feel could possibly improve on the book if handled well. The cast seems promising.

I liked the way the story was presented as courses instead of “Chapters”: Appetiser, Main, Dessert, etc etc (I can’t remember all the posh terms for all the different courses. Never knew there were so many courses to a fancy meal!). We slowly learn more & more about the four adults having this meal together while the story of the horrible act commited by their teenage sons comes to light.

I’m not going to say much more as the story is pretty straightforward and there’s not much more I could say anyway without spoiling it. I’ll say it’s a decent character study but doesn’t explore all the moral implications as much as it could have. By the end, it felt more shallow than I was hoping for. That’s why I’m hopeful for the possibility of a really good film adaptation as there’s some meaty material here for a really good set of screenwriters & actors to sink their teeth into. We’ll see. The Dinner isn’t as deep & meaningful as it could’ve been but it’s still an intriguing story told in a fairly original way and I’d say I enjoyed it more than several of the other 13 books I’ve read so far this year.

My Rating: 3/5

**Yes, I’m keeping a list of all the books I’ve read so far this year. At the moment, this is probably how I’d rank them (from least favorite to favorite). If you really want to know… πŸ˜‰ I hope to review them all by the end of the year:

14. The Sisters by Claire Douglas
13. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
12. The Circle by Dave Eggers
11. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
10. The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
9. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
8. Finders Keepers by Stephen King
7. The Dinner by Herman Koch
6. The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
5. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
4. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
3. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
2. Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
1. Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie

(And, yes, I’m focusing on reading books that have been movies/TV shows recently or will be very soon) πŸ™‚

The Secret Life Of Pets (2016) Review

The Secret Life Of Pets (2016)

Directed by Chris Renaud & Yarrow Cheney

Starring: Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Steve Coogan, Ellie Kemper, Bobby Moynihan, Lake Bell, Dana Carvey, Hannibal Buress, Jenny Slate, Albert Brooks

Production company: Illumination Entertainment

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A terrier named Max’s quiet life is upended when his owner takes in Duke, a stray, who Max instantly dislikes.

My Opinion:

Ah, Illumination Entertainment… They gave us the Despicable Me movies (love those!) and Hop (awful!). Oh, and The Lorax (meh) and Minions (disappointing movie but Minions are one of my favorite cinematic creations so I can’t complain too much). Luckily, The Secret Life Of Pets is closer to Despicable Me than Hop. I thought it was fun & think I actually enjoyed it even more than my kid did. It will never be a personal favorite of mine the way Pixar movies and Despicable Me are, but it’s nice to go to an animated kids’ film that I can get some enjoyment out of too. I’m so selfish… πŸ˜‰

The Secret Life Of Pets starts out really strong with our main character (a dog named Max) and the owner he adores. We then meet his friends: the neighbor pets who are all left home alone each day when their owners head off to work. We see the pets interact & watch how they keep themselves and each other entertained all day. These scenes were cute with some genuinely funny moments & they really could’ve stayed within this one building for the entirety of the movie and it would’ve been great. Unfortunately, it all goes a little too over-the-top once they leave the building & the story gets more complicated. I think the simplicity of the first half of the movie worked much better.

The second half was still fun, though. This movie has LOADS of characters, which kind of takes away from our main set of pets from Max’s neighborhood. But I suppose it also means that every kid will easily have a couple of favorites as there are so many different types of animals & personalities going on. My kid loved Gidget. Not sure who my favorite was… I liked Gidget as well as Max & Pops (an old dog with wheels voiced by Dana Carvey).

I have to say that one bit with the “bad guys” (previous pets abandoned by their owners) & a big viper is a bit intense for the very young. My 7-year-old didn’t like this part & she’s not one to really get too scared by movies. So bear that in mind if you’re wondering if it’s suitable for a toddler (I’d say it’s not).

I was surprised that my kid said the movie was “just okay” afterwards & that she preferred Zootropolis. Zootropolis really rubbed me the wrong way by being far too preachy (I bitched about that HERE). I don’t mind messages in kids’ films but don’t like when they’re forced down our throats. Plus, I just found that movie really boring. The Secret Life Of Pets is a straightforward animated kids’ movie with funny characters, some good laughs & no preaching (Although I suppose you could say there’s sort of a message to not discard your pets). Unlike Zootropolis, I thought it was funny and had far more memorable characters. But, hey – the kid liked it less so what do I know?? I was just happy to watch a decent kids’ movie that didn’t bore me to tears or annoy me. It’s a fun popcorn movie that was more enjoyable than I was expecting but certainly not a timeless classic like many Pixar & Disney movies. But very few movies are as good as those, right?

My Rating: 7/10

If you’re curious, this is how I’d rank the cinema movies I’ve seen with my kid in 2016. It’s summer vacation now so I’m kind of stuck seeing only kids’ films now until September. Oh well – at least I’ll finally be seeing Finding Dory this weekend. Can’t wait!!!

My 2016 Kids’ Movies – Best To Worst:
– Goosebumps
Kung Fu Panda 3
– The Secret Life Of Pets
The Jungle Book
Zootropolis

My Kid’s Best To Worst Order As I Suppose Her Opinion Is More Important: πŸ˜‰
– Pan (went with her father – she loved it)
– Goosebumps
– TIE: Kung Fu Panda 3 & Zootropolis
– The Secret Life Of Pets
The Jungle Book

Minions (2015) Review

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Minions (2015)

Directed by Pierre Coffin & Kyle Balda

Starring Voice Actors:
Pierre Coffin
Sandra Bullock
Jon Hamm
Michael Keaton
Allison Janney
Steve Coogan
Geoffrey Rush

Production company: Illumination Entertainment

Running time: 91 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Minions Stuart, Kevin and Bob are recruited by Scarlet Overkill, a super-villain who, alongside her inventor husband Herb, hatches a plot to take over the world.

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My Opinion:

First of all, I must confess that I love minions. LOVE THEM!!!! They’re hilarious and adorable and I desperately want some of my own (to do my evil bidding, of course). I specifically want a Bob after seeing this movie – he’s so sweet with his little teddy bear!

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So, anyway – I’m probably going to be far more forgiving of this movie’s flaws because…. MINIONS!!!! πŸ™‚ Is this movie great? No. Is it even remotely as good as Despicable Me or Despicable Me 2? Hell no. But that’s okay – I didn’t expect it to be. I was hoping it would be better than it was, though, so that was a little disappointing. For the record, I think the first Despicable Me is absolutely brilliant (which shocked me as I’ve never really loved a kids’ film that wasn’t made by Pixar or Disney). I think it’s very funny as well as very sweet (without being schmaltzy). The relationship between Gru & the girls is done perfectly and I knew when they announced there would be a movie with just the minions that it would never live up to the Despicable Mes as Gru and the girls are what really make those movies so great. The fault with Minions isn’t the minions, though – they’re just as silly and loveable as ever. Unfortunately, the story and script are very weak as are all the non-minion characters. Bullock’s Scarlet Overkill is especially boring – I found her and the family the minions first meet to all be a bit stupid and pointless. We cared about Gru in Despicable Me and, even when he was at his most evil, he was at least funny & entertaining. In Minions, I really just wanted the human characters to go away. Maybe the next minions movie should be nothing but minions??? I suppose it would have to be narrated or subtitled through the whole thing, though… Okay, I suppose it wouldn’t work. I’d still watch it, though!

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I’m keeping this review short because, well, there isn’t much to say. If you adore the minions as much as I do, you’ll have fun with this movie even though you’ll recognize that it’s far from perfect. If you’re not a fan of the Despicable Me films or of the minions, I wouldn’t recommend Minions (I’m not sure why you’d want to watch it anyway in that case). I had plenty of fun laughs throughout the film but it’s lacking the heart of Despicable Me (as well as the amazing Pharrell soundtracks). For a soundtrack full of pre-existing music, though, I’d have to say that I did really enjoy the great 60’s songs they chose for the film (from The Beatles, The Kinks, The Who, etc). Plus, thank god, they were smart enough to include Mellow Yellow by Donovan! (because, like, minions are YELLOW! Yeah?!). πŸ™‚ I also enjoyed several 60’s pop culture references but, overall, it didn’t make up for the mediocre story and villain. I still love those minions, though!!!! Just do me a favor & watch Despicable Me instead if you’ve never seen it.

My Rating: 6.5/10

And if you’re curious, these would be my Despicable Me ratings:
Despicable Me: 9/10
Despicable Me 2: 7.5/10
**Updated post to add Despicable Me 3: 7/10**

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My six-year-old’s opinion: I’ve not done this as a “family” review as, to be honest, I’d have watched Minions even if I didn’t have a kid. But I did ask her for her opinion of the movie as I always do after we watch one together. She of course enjoyed it and giggled plenty throughout the film but I know she didn’t like it as much as Despicable Me. She gives the Despicable Me films 10/10 & Minions 8/10 (she tends to rate things too highly). πŸ˜‰ She sat pretty still through the whole movie so it did keep her attention the entire time. I’d say it’s definitely worth going to if your kids love the minions as much as mine does. Oh, and her favorite bit has to do with a famous band (but I can’t say any more to avoid spoilers).

What my hubby had to say:
“Such a wasted opportunity. Yes I giggled at the odd thing here and there… but what a waste of some of the most iconic creations of the past ten years.”

Is there a scene after the credits? YES! There are a lot of scenes throughout the credits but there’s also a very long scene after the credits as well. It’s worth staying for (in my opinion. if you’re a music lover…).

Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb (2014) Review

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Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb (2014)

Directed by Shawn Levy

Starring:
Ben Stiller
Robin Williams
Owen Wilson
Steve Coogan
Dan Stevens
Ben Kingsley
Rebel Wilson

Running time: 98 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
The things in a museum come to life every night. For the third time. But in London this time!

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My Opinion:

Well, I had nothing ready to post for today so here’s a quickie! I saw this just after Christmas but never got around to reviewing it. What can I say? I actually quite like these Night At The Museum movies. As far as “family” movies go, anyway, I think they’re far more enjoyable than some of the other terrible “family” films these days that maybe only one member of the family actually enjoys. I still say they don’t make good non-animated movies for the whole family like they used to (such as Big. I miss things like Big!) but the Night At The Museum movies are a step in the right direction.

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Secret Of The Tomb is, of course, not as good as the first film but is at least better than the second one. I thought the second film was the weakest of the trilogy & went overboard on making so many exhibits come to life that the movie ended up a bit of a mess. It also forgot to focus on the main characters that we liked so much from the first movie so, in Secret Of The Tomb, they don’t make the same mistake again & they give us lots of time with our main favorites while adding only a few interesting new ones.

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I’m really not a fan of Ben Stiller at ALL but I don’t mind him in this series. There’s a “Neanderthal” version of him in this one which I found pretty stupid but I’m sure he was a hit with the kids who saw this. Owen Wilson & Steve Coogan once again make a fun duo and that damn monkey is just as lovable/hateful as always. Rebel Wilson does a great job playing “Rebel Wilson as a security guard” (she’s a love her or hate her – I’m pretty sure I don’t love her) and Dan Stevens from that movie The Guest that everyone goes on about plays the biggest new addition, Sir Lancelot. We even get to briefly see Dick Van Dyke, Bill Cobbs & Mickey Rooney once again – love those guys! It was bittersweet seeing Rooney again but it just plain heartbreaking seeing Robin Williams, whose character I’ve always felt is the best thing about the Night At The Museum films. It was hard to not get teary-eyed over his final line in the film. SPOILER WARNING – this was the line:
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His final line, spoken to Ben Stiller, is: “Smile, my boy. It’s sunrise.” Which, if you’ve seen the movies, you know that means day has come & the exhibits will no longer be “alive” so he goes back to being a wax figure after speaking this line. So perfect but so sad.

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Summary:

There’s not much else I can say about Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb other than that it’s an enjoyable film for the whole family. Some of the humor is a little silly but that’s to be expected from a family film – I still had plenty of fun watching it as an adult. Possibly the best thing about these movies, however, is that I think they’ve made plenty of kids interested in visiting museums & learning more about history. What did I do about a week after seeing this? I of course ended up making a trip into London to visit The British Museum where we were told we weren’t the first ones to ask if they actually had the big nine-headed snake thing from the movie (they don’t). However, they DO have the cute little dude in my below photo (Garuda). πŸ™‚

My Rating: 6.5/10

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Here’s a good link to check out if you plan on watching this movie then taking your kids to The British Museum: A Night At The Museum – Fact Vs Fiction

Ruby Sparks (2012) Review

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Ruby Sparks (2012)

Directed by Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris

Written by Zoe Kazan

Starring:
Paul Dano
Zoe Kazan
Annette Bening
Antonio Banderas
Steve Coogan
Elliott Gould
Chris Messina

Running time: 104 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
Calvin Weir-Fields (Paul Dano) is a novelist who, while suffering from writer’s block, creates a character named Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan). Calvin starts to fall in love with her and, much to his surprise, wakes one day to find a very real Ruby Sparks in his kitchen.

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My Opinion:

I’d been wanting to see Ruby Sparks for ages because I LOVE the idea. It’s such a simple idea for a plot, really, but there were so many ways they could have chosen to go with the film. What would you do if you could write a person into existence & have complete control over them? How many of us would do the right thing & how many of us would abuse that power? I like movies that explore the ramifications (that’s a big word for me!) of situations such as this one.

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Instead of one of my wordy reviews where I go on & on, I’ll keep this simple. I enjoyed Ruby Sparks. It’s a great story AND I even really liked how they chose to end it. There were many different ways they could have gone with the ending & I found it a satisfying conclusion (I’m often disappointed by how films end). The whole script seemed solid and was apparently written by the girl who stars as Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan). I don’t know anything about her but I think she shows huge promise as a writer based on this film. She was also probably the highlight of the film as far as the characters were concerned.

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I wasn’t crazy about the character of Calvin but that could be because Paul Dano just kind of rubs me the wrong way. I feel bad saying that kind of stuff because, you know, Paul Dano might read this someday & then I’d feel bad. Other characters such as his mother & her boyfriend (Annette Bening & Antonio Banderas) and his therapist (Elliott Gould) are just quirky enough in that indie movie sort of way without being annoyingly so. Calvin’s relationship with his brother (Chris Messina) is the most interesting one in the film (outside of his relationship with Ruby, of course). His brother has different theories on women & relationships and has his own opinions on how Calvin should deal with having the ability to control Ruby just by writing whatever he wants about her.

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Summary:

The movie asks a good question – if we could actually change our partners and make them exactly the way we want them, would we and, more importantly, SHOULD we? I loved the story & it’s handled very well but, overall, it’s not a movie I’d really feel the need to watch again after seeing it the one time. I didn’t fully connect with the characters (particularly Calvin, who is quite depressing – it’s clear why he’s had so much trouble with relationships in the past). Ruby is a good creation, though, and it’s a very good script – I’d watch another movie written by and/or starring Zoe Kazan.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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Despicable Me 2 (2013) Review

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**SPOILER FREE REVIEW**

Despicable Me 2

Directed by Pierre Coffin & Chris Renaud

Starring Voice Actors:
Steve Carell
Russell Brand
Kristen Wiig
Benjamin Bratt
Steve Coogan
Ken Jeong
Miranda Cosgrove

Music by Pharrell Williams & Heitor Pereira

Studio: Illumination Entertainment
Distributed by: Universal Pictures

Plot Synopsis:

After becoming a father to Margo, Edith, and Agnes, Gru is no longer an evil mastermind and is instead throwing kids’ birthday parties & making jelly. That is, until he’s recruited by the Anti-Villain League and must help save the world from a new evil villain…

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My Opinion:

I’m a HUGE fan of the first Despicable Me. It’s the first (and only) non-Disney or Pixar animated film that I’ve ever really liked. Everything about it is brilliant – the relationship between Gru and the three girls who are loveable without ever being overly saccharine and feisty without being bratty, the hilarious minions (one of the greatest cinematic creations in recent years in my opinion), and both Steve Carell & Russell Brand being genuinely funny instead of sometimes slightly annoying. Luckily, all these things are again present in Despicable Me 2.

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It was never going to live up to the first one (not many sequels do). But at least it comes close, so I’m happy with that. It starts early on with a birthday party for Agnes, which reminds us how much Gru fell in love with these three girls and how he’d do anything for them. I love the relationship between Gru and the girls – It was great seeing that develop in the first one and to watch Gru go from villain to hero so, of course, we don’t get that in this film. But we still see plenty of Gru & the girls together in this one and, at the end, we get a moment ALMOST as sweet as when Gru reads the girls the story he wrote in the first Despicable Me (that scene gets me every time!). And we get Gru being a (very!) overly protective father when Margo starts showing an interest in boys. Some great funny scenes involved with that!

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And then, of course, we have the MINIONS. Oh man – I love those little dudes so much! I want my own army of minions. And they’re as hilarious as always. Luckily, there are a lot more scenes with them in this one than in the first film. That’s a good thing (to me, at least). And they’re even more funny this time. I won’t spoil anything but I’ll say they sing a song at one point and the “lead singer” REALLY cracked me up. And there are so many little funny “blink and you’ll miss it” moments with the minions – it’s a lot like how you really need to pay attention to what’s happening in the background of Pixar films. The minions are just plain brilliant – I can see why they’re making a whole movie just about them.

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I really have nothing bad to say about this film other than, overall, the plot was weaker than the one in the original movie. And the new character of Lucy Wilde, who works with Gru as part of the Anti-Villain League, borders on annoying (which is kind of the point anyway). But so does Kristen Wiig, who voices this character. But these are pretty minor things and didn’t ruin my enjoyment at again seeing these characters for whom I have such affection. And, again, the music is brilliant thanks to Pharrell Williams & Heitor Pereira – something I also loved about the first one. And Gru goes on a pretty hilarious date with a woman far more annoying than Kristen Wiig… Plus we have cross-dressing minions again – one dressed as a French maid and one in frilly underwear. Okay – maybe I’m immature but cross-dressing minions are awesome. πŸ˜‰

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Summary:

Doesn’t quite have the heart of the first one but definitely has all of the humor, if not more. This movie is genuinely hilarious, which is very hard for kids’ films to achieve (trust me – the adults in our sold-out cinema were laughing as much as the kids). Despicable Me 2 is just plain FUN. But, if for some reason you’ve not seen the first one, definitely watch it before seeing the sequel – you really need to understand the characters of Gru & the girls. You’re missing out if you’ve not seen the first one. If you have and if you love it, you won’t be disappointed by the sequel.

My Rating: 7.5/10

(If you’re curious, my 1st Despicable Me rating: 9/10)

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**Forgot to add – there are quite a few funny extra scenes with the minions throughout the credits so you might want to stay for that. I believe there’s no scene AFTER the credits…

Movies I’ve Seen In 2013