28 June 2017

Baby Me 3 in The House

These movie-title combinations in our weekly previews have probably become too ridiculous. Can you tell what we're talking about? Well, you clicked - you'll find out soon enough! There are three films dropping this week - one today, then two more on Friday, but we'll just run through the whole lot right now - particularly because today's the only one worth any effort in checking out. Let's save that sucker for last and start with some trash:

Oh, oh, Minions are back. This terrible franchise has been damn reliable since the Steve Carrell-led Gru and a bunch of little girls-film dropped in 2010 with Despicable Me. That one's still a solid outing, at least for quotable creativity and marketability, which is through the roof from anything DreamWorks or Pixar has attempted in that time. The sequel, which focused more on the doofy expendable Minions and nominally on the eponymous despicable one, did even better in the theaters in 2013. Finally, we got Minions (2015), which I watched on Netflix Streaming because it was like 80 minutes long and I was pretty drunk - that movie is really really terrible. It's so bad. These films have clearly had a descent in quality as it leans into that marketable toy-ability rather than its story.

We tend not to be disappointed when Illumination Entertainment does this, though. When Pixar cranks out Cars 4 (2020), it'll be a down and dirty shame, but that's because they're selling out twenty years of fantastic story and character-based entertainment that had typically bucked the "selling toys and getting cheap laughs that every other children's animated film goes after." Illumination has no pretense of being a classy enterprise.

Having said that, the Minions are actually a fantastically classic comic team, even if that team is incredibly fluid (to the point where it's less a team than a series of interchangeable yellow dildos). Their mumbly jibberish works as perfect silent comedy, and a lot of their miniature bits within their three films are pretty inspired. This is all to say that Minions are pretty groan-worthy and totally hackneyed, but when executed with creative aplomb, that can be a good thing.

Despicable Me 3 (2017), seems like it's focusing on a ton of different things. I'm not really up on the story, but it's like, Gru returning to villainy (I guess he left?), his brother or something coming back, and then some weird purple 80s guy voiced by Trey Parker? It's that latter bit that's the only thing I'm really interested in here - not just because I'm a South Park fan, but because it's just so damn rare that Parker does anything that he didn't direct himself.

Let's break this down. Trey Parker has of course been running South Park with Matt Stone since 1997 and most recently branched out with The Book of Mormon on Broadway in 2011. Their last major film appearance, though, was Team America (2004), which they directed and appeared in as voice roles. His last non-cameo appearance in anything not directed by himself was BASEketball (1998). That's getting to be some bit of time. That, combined with South Park's pedigree for mercilessly making fun of any and all parts of pop culture along with the duo's general disinterest, or need to appear in anything else makes this pretty damn interesting. You've got to wonder on some level if this script made the high satirical standards of Trey Parker. OR if he just didn't care. At any rate, Parker really should be considered one of the greatest voice actors of all time and it's frankly amazing that his voice is being featured for the first time in something that he didn't write or direct.

This is all interesting, although I struggle to think it'll be a reason to make the film any good. Commercially it ought to be fine, although plenty of films seem to be bombing lately, and it's not like we haven't had a cash grab big studio animated film in a while. I would be shocked if it hits Despicable Me 2 (2013) numbers, but maybe Minions numbers? Certainly not last year's Secret Life of Pets (2016) surprise hit.

Moving on, we have The House (2017), which is widely billed as the first Amy Poehler / Will Ferrell vehicle, as if Blades of Glory (2007) never happened at all. It's still enticing, even if the broke college parents premise feels a bit tired. The trailer wasn't all too bad, although I'm not really feeling much interest at all. It's been a decent while since we've had a solid comedy land, though, and it'd be great if these two could get a true hit. They're riding mostly off of Daddy's Home (2015) and Sisters (2015), which are both funny in their own right, but just can't really touch anything they did int he past decade (at least on the big screen - Parks and Rec aside).

Why is that? It's weird to say, because a lot of their work has done really well - Daddy's Home is somehow the highest-grossing film of Ferrell's career - but it also just doesn't feel that memorable. There's been a definite shift, first of all, these actors can play parents of college-aged characters now, but it might just simply be that we've finally crested the near twenty-year popularity of these comedians.

The House has plenty of solid supporting actors from Jason Mantzoukas to uhh...Jeremy Renner and maybe Allison Tolman is funny in addition to being great in Fargo. There's certainly a humourous turn here when Ferrell and Poehler go nuts, but the whole story feels very done to death. Then again, there is a need for comedy right now, both in the world and the specific film market, and honestly, without much else competition from anyone, this could be a surprisingly well-timed Independence Day hit. Then again, it also feels very school-focused, but it's summer, dammit! In the end I'm just not feeling this.

Finally, we have Baby Driver (2017), which needs to get off its soft name and earn its reputation for being one of the coolest movies ever. Edgar Wright needs to struggle hard to make an unfine film, and the cast is an absolute dream from top to bottom. The premise, the eponymous baby as a getaway driver with tinnitus who needs music to soothe his pain, which doubles as a sick action-beat soundtrack is a bit complex, but ought to add up to a solid outing.

Almost everyone who loves movies ever is pretty pumped for this, but the big trick is getting everyone else interested. It's weird and tragic that it's an underdog, because it should be a slam-dunk. There's no preexisting property or built-in fan base, but that shouldn't matter, right? We seem to hate sequels (well, non-Marvel or Star Wars sequels) these days, and Baby Driver actually looks like fun, engaging filmmaking. I don't reckon it'll go nuts at the box office, but likely at $40 million it'll do well enough to be successful.

It's also at least culturally distinctive enough to build a following like all of Wright's films have achieved. He's already shown that he doesn't have to lean on the Cornetto Trilogy to pull this off, with Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010) making no money, but still being a beloved hit amongst its fans. I think that Baby Driver has slightly more mass appeal, and that ought to be enough to ensure its legacy both financially and culturally. I think critics too are already chomping on the bit to throw it on some best-of lists, although it's totally not a bait-y film. I know I'm excited to count it among 2017's greats. Maybe even too much so - the worst it could do is probably being good, but not great.

That's your Fourth of July lowdown, people. What do you think? Wonder Woman (2017), again?

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