DESPICABLE ME 3 (2017)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG for Action and Rude Humor

Directed by: Kyle Balda & Pierre Coffin

Written by: Cinco Paul & Ken Daurio

Voices of: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Trey Parker, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, Nev Scharrel, Steve Coogan, Julie Andrews & Jenny Slate

One of three unexpected animated sequels in 2017’s summer movie season (alongside THE NUT JOB 2 and CARS 3), DESPICABLE ME 3 falls in the middle of its great-to-okay franchise. I feel that the first DESPICABLE ME is overrated and a bit bland, but has enough sweetness and laughs to barely overcome its many flaws. DESPICABLE ME 2 is Illumination’s best film (so far) and a sequel that easily surpassed its predecessor. MINIONS was an okay spin-off that had great moments, but was aimed far more at little kids than previous two DESPICABLE films. DESPICABLE ME 3 serves as an improvement over the first DESPICABLE film and its yellow pill-shaped spin-off, but falls beneath the still-superior second installment. This is a fun piece of family entertainment. Nothing more, nothing less.

Former-supervillain-turned-good-guy Gru (Steve Carell) and agent Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig) have been serving as husband and wife crime-fighting partners for the Anti-Villain League. After he’s thwarted by 80s-child-star-turned-evil-villain Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker), Gru and his wife are fired. Things look grim for Gru until he receives an invitation from his wealthy long-lost twin brother Dru (also Steve Carell). It turns out that Dru is looking to get into supervillainy and hopes that Gru will assist him. Meanwhile, Lucy struggles to be a good mother towards Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier), and Agnes (Nev Scharrel).

DESPICABLE ME 3 has colorful, vibrant animation. The designs on a giant robot and certain backgrounds look pretty darn realistic, even though these settings are populated by cartoony characters. The film also excels in its Minion moments. The Minions were the funniest part of the first two DESPICABLE ME films and they (once again) steal the show here. Their subplot, which involves them revolting against Gru and serving hard time in prison, is filled with hilarious moments and one montage that ranks as one of the funniest bits of the entire DESPICABLE series.

The film falters when it comes to the more emotional side of things. The first DESPICABLE film had Gru adjusting to a newfound family life and the sequel had a love-interest for Gru alongside more hijinks of him parenting a preteen who was developing an interest in boys. The third DESPICABLE ME forgoes any emotional arc for Gru altogether as his brother storyline serves as simple comedic means to an end. The only emotional moments to speak of involve Lucy Wilde trying to adjust to motherhood and Agnes facing a blow of harsh reality towards her wild imagination. The former only makes up about five brief scenes of screen time and the latter is wrapped up in the space of 15 minutes.

The series’ more grown-up moments take a backseat for a plot that’s very predictable and feels like your average kids cartoon. Much like the MINIONS spin-off, DESPICABLE ME 3 is aimed for a much younger audience and barely attempts to put the same amount of effort into entertaining older viewers as it does occupying children’s short attention spans. One positive quality that might give adults a few chuckles comes in Trey Parker’s 80s-obsessed antagonist. His break-dance fighting (ripped off from ZOOLANDER), constant reminiscing over a bad TV show, wacky weapons, and references might get an occasional laugh or two, but this villain isn’t nearly as clever as he could have been and DESPICABLE ME 2’s El Macho still serves as the series’ best baddie.

There really isn’t much else I can say about DESPICABLE ME 3. This film ranks higher than the okay first entry, but is not on the same level of smart writing and emotional weight of the far-superior second film. The vibrant animation and fast pace are sure to keep this fun for children, while adults will likely get a few laughs out of it. The Minions easily steal the show, but that’s always been the case in this franchise. Meanwhile, the actual draw of this third installment in Gru’s long-lost brother doesn’t make much of an impact at all. If you liked the other DESPICABLE ME movies, you’ll like this one. However, just don’t expect anything really special.

Grade: B

TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE (2004)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 38 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Graphic Crude and Sexual Humor, Violent Images and Strong Language -all involving Puppets

TeamAmerica poster

Directed by: Trey Parker

Written by: Trey Parker, Matt Stone & Pam Brady

Voices of: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Kristen Miller, Masasa, Daran Norris & Phil Hendrie

With the recent fiasco over THE INTERVIEW, it seems appropriate to review the most crude, darkly hilarious and brilliant example of freedom of speech ever constructed in the Hollywood system. In 2004, Trey Parker and Matt Stone (creators of SOUTH PARK) delivered the most outlandish comedy that was ever graced with a glorious nationwide theatrical release. Though it’s not a conventional masterpiece or classic, TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE delivers on the levels of offensive humor and absurdity that anyone familiar with this comedic duo should come to expect. TEAM AMERICA ridicules everyone (regardless of nationality or political beliefs) as well as riffing on Michael Bay blockbusters at the same time. It’s ludicrous and ludicrously entertaining!

MCDTEAM EC008

Gary Johnston is a simple, naïve Broadway actor. After his latest performance of LEASE: THE MUSICAL, Gary is recruited by the underground police force known as Team America. This group is dedicated to taking out all terrorist groups across the globe, but has caused a stir among outspoken celebrities (particularly, the Film Actors Gild a.k.a. F.A.G.) and the general public. However, Team America is needed now more than ever as Kim Jong-Il is springing forth a master plan that could mean the end of the world. It’s up to Gary and the other Team America members to stop to Kim’s plan, but can they work as a team long enough to do so?

MCDTEAM EC011

There are obvious shots taken at various nationalities and political views, but TEAM AMERICA simultaneously mocks big budget action films by including such self-aware clichés as montages, characters who are only identifiable by their jobs, and explosions galore. The animation (puppets in hand-crafted environments) is legitimately great. Parker and Stone were apparently sticklers for every detail looking as realistic as it possibly could. I’m sure this was a pain in the ass during the filming process, but the results are fantastic. Big laughs come in apparent restrictions of using puppets for certain scenes. There are hand-to-hand combat moments and a quick dance scene, but the unforgettable piece is in an exaggerated sex scene that has now become infamous. Pushing the boundaries (apparently, the film received an NC-17 multiple times before being edited to an R) in this raunchy joke results in a sequence that has to be seen to be believed and will haunt your mind with puppets simulating various sex positions for the rest of your life.

MCDTEAM EC012

Though the Team America members are entertaining in their individual ways, the villains are where this movie broke me into laughing so hard that I was crying. Opening with an introductory action scene that features the most stereotypical middle-eastern terrorists imaginable (complete with obvious villain music), these bearded maniacs from Derkaderkastan only speak a handful of words (Derkaderka, Muhammad, jihad, and Allah) that are combined in various ways for their conversations. That cracks me up. It’s childish, but I laughed loudly during those scenes. Then there’s the Film Actors Guild (F.A.G.), which is pretty much just an excuse for Matt and Trey to make fun of outspoken celebrity types (including Sean Penn, who wrote them an angry letter about his inclusion in the film). Finally, there’s Kim Jong-Il, who’s fuelled by a little-man complex and speaks Engrish. The script seems to give him as many words with the letter L as possible so he can mispronounce them. All of these are juvenile jokes, but it works masterfully well in the context of the movie.

MCDTEAM EC009

The film may have a steady fire of witty dialogue, offensive jabs at just about everyone, over-the-top violence, and ridiculously graphic sex jokes, but the finale is where TEAM AMERICA really excels. While Matt Stone and Trey Parker are hilarious guys and construct the best satire around, they sometimes have a problem in sticking the landing. This was probably most apparent in the conclusion of SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER & UNCUT where it almost felt like they ran dry of creative ideas and took an easy way out. That’s not at all the case in TEAM AMERICA as the final third is gloriously hilarious and insane. The entire movie is crude, rude and lewd, but it’s unabashedly so and made specifically for the crowd that loves Parker and Stone’s nasty (almost always on point) sense of humor.

MCDTEAM EC007

TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE is one of the best comedies to come out of the new millennium. I’m going that far in my praise of this film. It’s absolutely ridiculous and revels in it. The animation is great on its own merits, but made even better with the use of violence, gore (the last act really does get crazy in that department) and sex (in a scene you’re not likely to ever forget). TEAM AMERICA is so hilarious that you might have to fight away tears from laughing too hard or pause the movie to catch your breath. It’s not considered a masterpiece of cinema or a fantastic work of art, but this film is a classic in its own sense. America, fuck yeah!

Grade: A+

SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER & UNCUT (1999)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 21 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Pervasive Vulgar Language and Crude Sexual Humor, and for some Violent Images

SouthPark poster

Directed by: Trey Parker

Written by: Tray Parker, Matt Stone, Pam Brady

Voices of: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Mary Kay Bergman, Isaac Hayes, George Clooney, Dave Foley, Eric Idle, Mike Judge

A common problem with turning a TV series into a movie is that the film version might wind up feeling like an extended episode of the show. Trey Parker and Matt Stone definitely have a knack for comedy. Their long-running animated comedy series SOUTH PARK has only grown in quality over the years. Each season comes funnier than the last. SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER & UNCUT was released midway through the third season of the popular animated satire. As a result, it feels as if Parker and Stone are trying too hard to push boundaries in their early years and only care about throwing as many outrageous things on the screen for the sake of being offensive. There’s social commentary in BIGGER, LONGER & UNCUT that holds plenty of relevance to this day, but some of it gets bogged down in this feeling like an elongated episode of the series.

SouthPark 1

It’s a beautiful Sunday morning in the quiet little mountain town of South Park. Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny are heading to the movie theater for the brand new Terrance & Phillip film. This popular flick is a heavily profane R-rated comedy from two Canadian actors and the boys are denied tickets due to the Restricted MPAA rating. They sneak in any way. Three hours later, they walk out with a whole new vocabulary of curse words and creative combinations of swearing. As any kid in this situation would, they unleash these newly learned phrases on their fellow peers. Soon every child across the country has seen the R-rated comedy that was never intended for children to begin with. The outraged adults look to blame anyone but themselves for their children’s misbehavior and Canada becomes their target. A war is brewing between the USA and Canada, all while the possibility of Hell literally rising on Earth is growing. It’s up to the band of potty-mouthed friends to save the day.

SouthPark 2

One thing I’ve noticed about Parker and Stone’s humor is that it’s fantastic in small doses. Don’t get me wrong. I can and have watched episodes of SOUTH PARK for hours on end. Everything from the fifth season forward has been comedy gold. However, if too much time is spent on certain storylines, then the jokes wind up becoming tiresome and overstaying their welcome. A good example of this in the series is the three-episode story-arcs that come every few seasons. There are brilliant moments in each, but overall I kind of wish that these storylines would conclude faster than they do. This all being said, SOUTH PARK is a series loaded with crude humor and social commentary. There are points being made behind all the stupidity. In BIGGER, LONGER & UNCUT, Parker and Stone tackle the hypocrisy of the MPAA Ratings board (apparently, this film had a long-running battle with the organization and received its final R rating only two weeks before the release) and freedom of speech. The jabs at the hypocritical organization and people looking for an easy scapegoat are more than a little well-deserved.

MSDSOPA EC006

The jokes range from hilarious to a little lame. The latter being shown in a homosexual relationship between Satan and Saddam Hussein. It’s supposed to be dumb, but I didn’t find it very funny. It was overplayed and the running gag just felt stupid. The biggest laughs come in the promising first third through some clever bits of dialogue and insults. You can almost feel the point where the movie begins to run out of steam and get dragged down from great to the level of alright. It’s not nearly as solid as you might expect walking into a SOUTH PARK movie. The same thing being said about jokes can also be said for the musical numbers. The series has quite a few songs, so does this movie. Some of these musical numbers come off as either trying too hard or not being that funny to begin with. The best songs also come in the first third of the film. BIGGER, LONGER & UNCUT starts off really strong and concludes in a thoroughly mediocre way.

SouthPark 4

I did enjoy the no-holds-barred approach being taken and the extreme lengths that some jokes would go to for a laugh. The war on Canada segments have deliberate echoes of wars past (including shipping off Canadian-born US citizens to death camps…I mean, happy camps). A few short-lived celebrity cameo voices are thrown in for good measure too (George Clooney appears for a few minutes as a doctor treating Kenny). Trey Parker and Matt Stone never seem afraid of pushing boundaries and taking risks. That’s exactly what they do every step of the way in BIGGER, LONGER & UNCUT. Some of them pay off and others don’t.

SouthPark 5

SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER & UNCUT is essentially just one long episode of the series. This idea may entertain some, but when I watch a movie based on a TV series, I expect a storyline slightly grander than what you might see on the small screen at home (e.g. THE SIMPSONS MOVIE). Rest assured, SOUTH PARK makes every possible use of its R rating from an absurd amount of profanity to graphic nudity and disgusting sexual innuendos. The plot needs some work though, especially with the lackluster final act. Parker and Stone have drastically improved their animated series since it’s inception over a decade ago, all while nailing satire in far more interesting ways (e.g. THE BOOK OF MORMON musical and TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE). SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER & UNCUT is a strictly fans only affair. Even then, some fans might just want to stick to watching half-hour episodes on TV.

Grade: C+

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑